Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body either cannot produce insulin or cannot properly use the insulin it produces. There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. The causes and management of these two types of diabetes are very different.
Causes of diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder. It happens when the body’s immune system destroys the beta cells in the pancreas. As a result, the pancreas can no longer produce insulin.
Type 2 diabetes is not an autoimmune disorder. There are two reasons why type 2 diabetes occurs: 1) the body still makes insulin, but can’t use it properly (this is called insulin resistance); and 2) insulin production in the pancreas decreases (this is called insulin deficiency).
In Canada, over 3,000,000 people have diabetes. Of these, about 90% have type 2 diabetes.
Age at diagnosis
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. While it has been diagnosed in people who are over 40 years old, this is very rare.
Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in adulthood, usually in people over 40 years of age. However, due to the increasing numbers of overweight and obese people around the world, type 2 diabetes is now being diagnosed in adolescents and young adults.
Time of onset
Type 1 diabetes happens very quickly. The time between when the pancreas stops producing insulin and the start of dangerous symptoms is quite short (generally just a few weeks or a month).
Type 2 diabetes may not happen as suddenly as type 1 diabetes. In fact, a person may have type 2 diabetes and not notice any symptoms for many years.
Generally, the symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are very similar. They include:
- Unusual thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weight change (gain or loss)
- Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
- Blurry vision
However, there are some symptoms that are associated only with type 2 diabetes, which are:
- Having frequent infections
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
People with type 1 diabetes must inject insulin using an insulin pen, syringe or insulin pump. When taken in conjunction with a healthy diet, an exercise program and regular blood glucose monitoring, people with type 1 diabetes can reach their diabetes management goals and live well.
Treatment of type 2 diabetes also begins with proper nutrition, exercise and blood glucose monitoring, but usually starts with oral medication, but in some instances may include insulin. Over time, the person with type 2 diabetes may use more than one oral medication and may also start taking insulin or other injectable medications.