It’s common knowledge that diabetes is divided into types 1 and 2, but what are the differences and why is it important to know them? As a chronic illness, diabetes needs to be managed daily, and understanding the type you have is important to doing so effectively. Though all types of diabetes share certain characteristics, they have different causes, which affect treatment and prevention.

How Many Types of Diabetes Are There?

There are actually three types of diabetes:

  • Gestational
  • Type 1
  • Type 2

Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that pregnant people can develop as a result of hormonal changes. While it is a serious condition that deserves the utmost care, it usually resolves on its own once the patient gives birth.

In contrast, type 1 and type 2 diabetes are life-long illnesses that can be managed but have no true cure.

What Is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes usually appears during childhood or young adulthood. Individuals with this condition can’t produce insulin, as their immune system has attacked and destroyed their pancreatic beta cells. Because it is the result of the immune system damaging non-foreign cells, type 1 diabetes is considered an autoimmune disease.

Insulin is responsible for prompting cells to absorb glucose, which is used for energy. Without insulin, individuals can’t regulate their blood sugar, potentially leading to serious consequences.

Symptoms

Unmanaged, type 1 diabetes can cause the following symptoms:

  • Weight loss
  • Extended healing time for sores and wounds
  • Tingling and numbness in feet and hands
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased hunger
  • Increased thirst and urination

With this specific type of diabetes, symptoms usually appear over the course of a few weeks.

Causes

Previously healthy individuals can be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and there is no correlation between BMI and the likelihood of developing this condition. Though there’s been a great deal of research into the question, scientists don’t have a definitive answer as to what causes type 1 diabetes. However, they have identified certain factors that commonly appear in those with a diagnosis.

For example, people with this condition typically have a family history of it. This implies a genetic component.

There is also some evidence that other illnesses may play a role in the immune system’s attack on beta cells. For example, there is a correlation between having the rubella cytomegalovirus or mumps virus and the later developing type 1 diabetes. Additionally, hemochromatosis and cystic fibrosis may lead to this condition.

Prevention

The best prevention for type 1 diabetes is vaccinations against mumps and rubella. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done right now to counteract the genetic component. Individuals with a family history of type 1 diabetes are advised to monitor themselves for symptoms; being on the lookout can mean an early diagnosis and prompt treatment.

Diagnosis

Doctors can diagnose type 1 diabetes with a simple blood test: the A1C test. To obtain a blood sample, doctors can either draw blood or prick patients’ fingers, similar to a blood glucose test. The A1C results show blood glucose levels over the past few months; if they are elevated, it indicates the patient has diabetes.

Treatment

People with type 1 diabetes are advised to monitor their blood glucose levels throughout the day to anticipate spikes and dips. Common times for testing are in the morning, before eating, after eating, and before going to sleep.

Because individuals with type 1 diabetes can’t make their own insulin, they need an artificial source. Some patients have an insulin pump while others use injections. Pumps are automatic and provide a steady supply of insulin, while injections must be done manually.

Complications

Unmanaged blood sugar levels can wreak havoc on the body and lead to long-term health issues such as these:

  • Ketoacidosis (an excess of blood acids)
  • Problems with wound healing
  • Nerve damage
  • Vision loss
  • Kidney disease and failure
  • Higher risk of stroke and heart attack
  • Coma

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Although the results are similar to type 1 diabetes, type 2 has a very different cause. Individuals with type 2 diabetes can produce insulin and their beta cells are intact. However, they have insulin resistance, which is when cells stop responding to the insulin hormone. This means cells don’t absorb glucose from the bloodstream, leading to high blood sugar levels.

Symptoms

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes have the same symptoms. However, symptoms of type 2 are gradual in development, often appearing over years. For this reason, adults and especially seniors are more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, although it is possible for individuals of any age to develop it.

Causes

While there are genetic factors that affect the development of type 2 diabetes, behavior also has a huge impact. Having elevated blood sugar levels for extended periods of time can lead to insulin resistance, which is why a lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet are risk factors for developing this condition. Additional risk factors include the following:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Certain medications

Prevention

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent type 2 diabetes:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining a healthy BMI
  • Not smoking
  • Following a healthy diet

Diagnosis

Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed in the same way as type 1. Individuals at risk are advised to look for symptoms, though the gradual nature of their development may make this difficult.

Treatment

Monitoring blood sugar is just as important for type 2 diabetes as it is for patients with type 1. However, because the cause is different, the treatment also differs. Individuals with type 2 diabetes can decrease their insulin resistance with prescribed medication, but behavioral changes may help as well. In fact, exercise and diet changes can reverse insulin resistance in some cases.

Complications

Type 2 diabetes can result in many of the same complications as type 1. Additionally, gangrene is a major concern and can lead to amputation.

Which Type Is More Common?

Of the two kinds of diabetes, type 2 is more common. It’s especially prevalent among people over 65 and is more frequently diagnosed in certain ethnic populations. Out of the 34.2 million Americans living with diabetes, over 90% of them have type 2. Out of the total U.S. population, about 10.5% have some type of diabetes.

No matter which type of diabetes you have, you need reliable glucose monitoring systems. That’s why MedEnvios Healthcare strives to provide our customers with the highest quality diabetes supplies delivered right to their doors. To shop our inventory or to learn more about our mission, visit us MedEnvios online today.

Featured Image: Shutterstock / Green Apple

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