Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes

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In order to understand diabetes and the Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes, you need to first understand how your body processes sugar.

Your Body & Sugar: Terms to Know


Our bodies use glucose for energy.

Glucose, a type of sugar, comes from two places:

  • Food
  • The liver


Insulin, a hormone, helps move glucose from our blood to the cells, which then use the sugar for energy. Insulin plays a key role. Without insulin, glucose stays in your blood, and you can’t use that energy.


This organ creates the insulin your body needs to get and use glucose.

Islet Cells

These cells make insulin in your pancreas. Your pancreas has other functions that can continue, even if your islet cells fail to create insulin.

The Similar Effects of Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes

Damage to any part of the process that moves glucose from your blood to your cells results in diabetes.

Signs of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Irritability
  • Increased urination
  • Headaches

People with type 2 diabetes may also experience:

  • Frequent or recurring infections
  • Poor wound healing
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Problems with gums
  • Itching
  • Problems having an erection

Dangers of All Types of Diabetes

Untreated diabetes is dangerous. A buildup of glucose in your blood can:

  • Hurt vital organs, usually the blood vessels, heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves, causing them to shut down
  • Force your body into ketoacidosis, an imbalance that leads to coma or death, arising from your body’s attempt to find other forms of energy;

Ketoacidosis symptoms include:

  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration (not enough fluid in the body)
  • Drowsiness
  • Abnormally deep and fast breathing
  • Dry skin and mouth
  • Fruity breath odor
  • Rapid pulse
  • Low blood pressure
  • Coma

Different Causes: Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes type 1 and type 2 come from different causes:

  • In diabetes type 1, the pancreas does not make insulin, because the body’s immune system attacks the islet cells in the pancreas that make insulin.
  • In diabetes type 2, the pancreas makes less insulin than used to, and your body becomes resistant to insulin. This means your body has insulin, but stops being able to use it.

Diabetes Type 1: An Autoimmune Disease

We don’t know why the immune system attacks the pancreatic islet cells.

Possible factors that might trigger this autoimmune reaction include:

  • Genes
  • Viruses
  • Foods
  • Chemicals

And sometimes, people can lose the ability to make insulin altogether because of:

  • Chronic type 2 diabetes
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Pancreatic surgery

Diabetes Type 2: A Common Disease

While both types of diabetes have inherited or genetic aspects, the insulin resistance that causes type 2 is related to having too much body fat.

Unlike type 1, type 2 diabetes:

  • Is not an autoimmune disorder
  • Occurs mostly in people over 45, or in younger people with obesity or genetic reasons

Because these two types of diabetes have distinct causes, each type has distinct:

  • Risk factors
  • Tests
  • Treatment options
  • Prevention possibilities
  • Management priorities

Dig deeper into Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes.