What is diabetes?
Diabetes refers to the medical condition that keeps your body from producing enough insulin or that prevents your cells from using the insulin that your body produces.
Your body requires a form of sugar called glucose to function. Insulin is a hormone that is produced by your pancreas. Insulin allows the glucose to move from your bloodstream into your cells, where it can be created into energy.
The most common types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. They share some similarities. Both involve the body’s ability to produce and use insulin. Both can be managed with a doctor’s support.
The two types of diabetes have some important differences, but there is no clear answer regarding which one is worse.
Signs and symptoms of diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder. This means that your body attacks itself if you have it.
The body’s immune system does not recognize the beta cells in your pancreas and attacks them. These cells are responsible for producing insulin. When your body attacks them, it leaves you unable to process glucose correctly.
Without the insulin to convert glucose into energy for your cells, the sugar you eat remains in your bloodstream.
Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed in children and young adults. It has no relation to your body weight.
Unlike those of type 2, the symptoms of type 1 diabetes can appear suddenly and include:
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Extreme thirst
- Blurry vision
- Cuts and bruises are slow to heal
- Weight loss despite eating more
Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in adults. In the U.S. 90 to 95% of diabetes cases are type 2.
The main difference between type 2 and type 1 is that with type 2 your pancreas produces plenty of insulin. Your cells that should use the insulin to transform glucose into energy don’t respond to it. This is dangerous, because it leaves changing amounts of the sugar you eat in your blood.
You may be at more at risk for developing type 2 diabetes if you:
- Have prediabetes
- Are overweight
- Are over the age of 45
- Have a parent or sibling with diabetes
- Are physically active fewer than 3 times per week
- Have ever had gestational diabetes
- Are of African American, Hispanic, or Native American descent
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes are very similar to those of type 1. In addition to the symptoms associated with type 1, type 2 diabetes might lead to:
Diagnosis for diabetes
Your doctor can determine whether you have diabetes, and which type it is, with one of these tests:
- The A1C test measures your average blood sugar level over the previous 2 to 3 months
- The Fasting Blood Sugar test measures your blood sugar level after an overnight fast
- The Glucose Tolerance test measures how your body reacts after you drink a liquid that has a high level of sugar in it
These blood tests are reliable and easy to conduct. Your doctor will be able to determine whether you are prediabetic, or have type 1 or type 2 diabetes with these tests.
Treatments for diabetes
If you have either type of diabetes, your treatment will involve maintaining your blood sugar level at a safe level. How you go about that will depend on the type you have.
Treating type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition and is managed with a combination of insulin medication and lifestyle choices.
People with type 1 diabetes supplement their insulin levels with injections or an insulin pump. Additionally, it is recommended that people with this condition maintain a healthy body weight, eat a balanced diet, exercise often, and check their blood sugar levels as prescribed.
Treating type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is also managed through a combination of medication and lifestyle choices.
If you have type 2 diabetes, you’ll need to check your blood sugar levels to ensure that they are in a safe zone. Your doctor might prescribe medication to help keep your levels where they should be.
Experts also recommend eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting plenty of exercise.
Possible complications and side effects
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes can have very serious side effects if they are not diagnosed or managed well.
One is not better or worse than the other. Both conditions require careful and mindful management. If your cells do not get the sugar they need to function, they will begin to die.
Blood sugar that is too high or too low is dangerous, especially to your brain. It is essential to manage your insulin and sugar levels to avoid loss of consciousness, organ damage, and other serious complications.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Diabetes Association: "Treatment and Care."
American Heart Association: "Symptoms, Diagnosis and Monitoring of Diabetes."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Diabetes."
Harvard Health Publishing: "Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus."
Johns Hopkins Patient Guide to Diabetes: "Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes."
Joslin Diabetes: "The Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2."
KidsHealth.org: "Type 1 Diabetes: How Is It Treated?"
Top Which is Worse Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes Related Articles
Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2)Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. The two types of diabetes are referred to as type 1 (insulin dependent) and type 2 (non-insulin dependent). Symptoms of diabetes include increased urine output, thirst, hunger, and fatigue. Treatment of diabetes depends on the type.
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Diabetes Symptoms in MenEarly symptoms of diabetes are different in men, such as low testosterone. In many cases, prediabetes that will progress to type 2 diabetes if it is not treated early.
Diabetes Symptoms in WomenDiabetes symptoms in women include vaginal itching, pain, or discharge, loss of interest or pain after having sex, polycystic ovarian syndrome (POS), and urinary tract infections or UTIs (which are more common in women. Symptoms of diabetes that are the same in women and men are excessive thirst and hunger, bad breath, and skin infections, darkening of skin in areas of body creases (acanthosis nigricans), breath odor that is fruity, sweet, or acetone, and tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, blurred vision, fatigue, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, wounds that heal slowly, irritability, and weight loss or gain.
Complications of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the same, for example, skin, eye, and circulation problems, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), ketoacidosis, and amputation. If diabetes is not managed a person may not survive.
Diabetes Treatment: Medication, Diet, and Insulin
The major goal in treating diabetes is controlling elevated blood sugar without causing abnormally low levels of blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes is treated with:
- and a diabetic diet.
Type 2 diabetes is first treated with:
- weight reduction,
- a diabetic diet,
- and exercise.
When these measures fail to control the elevated blood sugar, oral medications are used. If oral medications are still insufficient, insulin medications are considered.
Type 2 Diabetes Diet PlanA type 2 diabetes diet or a type 2 diabetic diet is important for blood sugar (glucose) control in people with diabetes to prevent complications of diabetes. There are a variety of type 2 diabetes diet eating plans such as the Mediterranean diet, Paleo diet, ADA Diabetes Diet, and vegetarian diets.Learn about low and high glycemic index foods, what foods to eat, and what foods to avoid if you have type 2 diabetes.
Insulin Pump for DiabetesAn insulin pump is designed to deliver insulin directly to a patient with diabetes. They are about the size of a standard beeper. The pump is attached to under the skin (usually on the abdomen). The amount of insulin required will depend on lifestyle (exercise, sleep patterns, activity level, and diet).
Normal Blood Sugar Levels In Adults with Diabetes
People with diabetes can manage and prevent low or high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia) by keeping a log of your blood sugar levels when you are eating and fasting and eat foods that are high in carbohydrates and sugar, for example, buttered potatoes, candy, sugary desserts, and fatty foods.
Blood tests, for example, the hemoglobin A1c test (A1c test) and urinalysis can diagnose the type of diabetes the person has. Diabetes during pregnancy, called gestational diabetes, should be managed by you and your OB/GYN or another healthcare professional.
Extremely high levels of blood glucose in the blood can be dangerous and life threatening if you have type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes.
If you or someone that you are with has extremely high blood glucose levels, call 911 or go to your nearest Urgent Care or Emergency Department immediately.
To prevent and manage high blood glucose levels in people with diabetes keep a log of your blood sugar levels, eat foods that are high in carbohydrates sugar, for example, buttered potatoes, candy, sugary deserts, and fatty foods that you can share with your doctor and other healthcare professionals.
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Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes: Differences
Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic condition in which a person's blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. Over 29.1 million children and adults in the US have diabetes. Of that, 8.1 million people have diabetes and don't even know it. Type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent, juvenile) is caused by a problem with insulin production by the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent) is caused by:
Eating a lot of foods and drinking beverages with simple carbohydrates (pizza, white breads, pastas, cereals, pastries, etc.) and simple sugars (donuts, candy, etc.)
- Consuming too many products with artificial sweeteners (We found out that they are bad for us!)
- Lack of activity
While the signs and symptoms of both types of diabetes are the same, which include:
- Increased urination
- Increased hunger
- Increased thirst
- Unexplained weight loss.
However, the treatments are different. Type 1 diabetes is insulin dependent, which means a person with this type of diabetes requires treatment with insulin. People with type 2 diabetes require medication, lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise.
Type 2 DiabetesType 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that may be reversible with diet and lifestyle changes. Symptoms include excessive thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, fatigue, and an unusual odor to your urine. Most people don't know they have type 2 diabetes until they have a routine blood test. Treatment options include medications, a type 2 diabetes diet, and other lifestyle changes.
Type 2 Diabetes QuizWhat causes type 2 diabetes? Can it be prevented? Take this online quiz and challenge your knowledge of this common condition. Also, get the truth about myths and facts!
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Diabetes Urine TestsUrine tests for individuals with diabetes is important to check for diabetes-related kidney disease and severe hypoglycemia. With proper monitoring of blood glucose levels, diabetic-kidney disease can be avoided.