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Differences between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes

type 1 and type 2 diabetes
Word cloud concept illustration of diabetes condition

While it is true that people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes both have higher than normal blood sugar levels, the cause and development of the two types of diabetes are different.

Type 1 diabetes is known as 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.

On the other hand, type 2 diabetes is not an autoimmune disorder. Rather, it occurs as a result of insulin resistance, meaning the body still makes insulin but can't use it properly, or as a result of insulin deficiency, which means that insulin production is decreased.

In Canada there are approximately 300,000 people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This is about 10% of all people diagnosed with both types of diabetes in Canada. Type 1 diabetes usually appears between early childhood and adolescence.

Type 2 diabetes can develop at any age but usually appears in adulthood. However, we are seeing an increase in children being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Currently, there are over 3 million people living with type 2 diabetes in Canada, and more than 6 million people living with prediabetes.

Common differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes Type 2 diabetes
Most often diagnosed in childhood or adolescence Usually diagnosed in adults over 40
Not associated with excess body weight Often associated with excess body weight
Always treated with insulin Initially treated with medication tablets, and injectable medications, such as insulin, later. In some instances, insulin may be prescribed at diagnosis.
It cannot be prevented For some people, it can be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle
type 1 vs type 2

Differences in symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes:

The first symptoms of type 1 diabetes appear when the blood sugar gets too high. Type 1 diabetes symptoms often arise quickly and may include intense thirst, hunger, fatigue, frequent urination, blurred vision and slow healing cuts.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes do not start as suddenly as symptoms of type 1 diabetes. Symptoms many not show up for many years meaning the disease may have been hurting the body before a person realizes it. When symptoms do appear, they are often the same as the symptoms of type 1 diabetes and can also include frequent infections and numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.

Treatment of type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes:

People with type 1 diabetes always 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.