Type 1 vs type 2 diabetes - what's the difference?

Type 1 vs type 2 diabetes - what's the difference? teaser
Diabetes is a condition whereby the body has a problem controlling the amount of glucose in the blood. But what is the difference between type 1 and type 2?
Diabetes is a condition whereby the body has a problem controlling the amount of glucose in the blood.  Carbohydrate from the food we eat is broken down into glucose, which is then converted to energy once it leaves the blood stream and enters the cells in the body.  In order for glucose to move from the blood stream into the cells, insulin is required and this is produced in the pancreas. 

Type 1 diabetes comes about as a result of the body’s immune system attacking the cells which make insulin in the pancreas, leading to a complete lack of insulin, which makes it impossible for glucose to enter the cells at all. Its onset can be fairly quick and it can become life threatening if not treated immediately. Because the body is no longer able to naturally produce insulin, it needs to be given either by injections or through a pump. It is less common than type 2 diabetes, and usually occurs in younger people, although it can occur at any age. We do not fully understand what causes this immune response in the body.

On the other hand, type 2 diabetes is more common and comes about when the body’s cells can’t respond effectively to insulin, known as insulin resistance.  This can lead to a drop in the production of insulin by the pancreas resulting in glucose levels getting higher.  Lack of exercise and being overweight can trigger or worsen the situation.  The onset is usually slower - often over a number of years - and it is more commonly seen in those over 40, although it is increasingly seen in younger people now too. 

Improvements in diet and exercise alone can sometimes be enough to manage type 2 diabetes, but often medication is required to help control glucose levels.  For some people, eventually insulin injections will be needed also, as the body is just not able to produce enough on its own.  However, this does not mean that these people now have type 1 diabetes.  That distinction is based on the way the condition came about rather than its treatment.

360 have a team of diabetes educators all across WA who can help you manage your diabetes. If you’ve just been diagnosed, or want to further understand diabetes, call us on 1300 706 922 and make an appointment.

Melanie Flynn
Diabetes Educator
360 Health + Community
 
References:
Baker IDI
Diabetes WA
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