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May 2020

5 Differences to Know About Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

More than 23 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with diabetes. There are two main types of the disease: type 1 and type 2. Although they’re similar in some ways, there are also some important differences that you should know.

1. Type 2 diabetes is more common.

It’s estimated that only 5% of people with diabetes have type 1.

2. They occur at different ages.

Type 1 diabetes is more likely to be diagnosed in children, teenagers, and young adults. Although type 2 diabetes can occur at any age, it most often develops in middle-aged and older adults.

3. They have different causes.

Type 1 diabetes is due to a problem with your immune system. Normally, your body breaks down carbohydrates in food into glucose. Beta cells in your pancreas release the hormone insulin to move glucose from your bloodstream and into your cells. With type 1 diabetes, your immune system destroys the beta cells. As a result, your pancreas stops making insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin to meet your body’s needs. This causes your blood glucose levels to rise higher than normal.

With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin properly. In response, your pancreas makes more insulin to help move glucose into your cells. While your pancreas may be able to keep up with the increased demand at first, over time it stops being able to make enough insulin, so your blood glucose levels rise.

4. You can’t prevent type 1 diabetes, but you can prevent type 2.

Scientists don’t know what causes type 1 diabetes, so there are no known ways to prevent it. However, you can prevent type 2 diabetes. While there are some factors that increase your risk for type 2 diabetes that you can’t control, such as your age, race, or family history, there are ways to lower other type 2 diabetes risk factors:

  • Losing weight if you’re overweight or obese

  • Increasing your physical activity—aim for at least 150 minutes per week (start slowly and build up to this goal)

  • Eating a healthy diet—eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; reduce your portions; and limit red meats, sweets, and high-fat foods

5. They may require different treatments.

If you have type 1 diabetes, you’ll need to take insulin and monitor your blood glucose levels. Several different options are available for injecting insulin, including pens, syringes, or an insulin pump. Work with your healthcare team to find the best way to administer your insulin and monitor your glucose.

Some people with type 2 diabetes may be able to control their blood glucose levels by changing their diet and getting enough exercise. You may also need oral diabetes medications or insulin to get your glucose levels within a healthy range. Work with your healthcare team to develop the best treatment plan for you.




Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Williams, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2020
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.