Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes affect the way your body processes blood sugar or glucose. But the way they develop is different, and the way they’re managed can vary, too. This post explains the basic differences between the two types. More than 37 million Americans have diabetes, according to the CDC, including almost 9 million who haven’t been diagnosed with the disease. An astounding 96 million adults have prediabetes, a condition that makes them far more likely to develop “full-blown” diabetes. But, even though diabetes is very common, many people don’t know what it is or what symptoms it causes. Understanding diabetes begins with learning about the two common types: type 1 and type 2. At Doctors First PC, our team of primary care doctors provides comprehensive diabetes care for patients at our offices in Gaithersburg, Germantown, Rockville,Bowie, and Columbia, Maryland. This post provides a brief overview of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, so you can learn to recognize the symptoms and seek care as soon as possible.

Type 1 diabetes versus type 2 diabetes

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes involve elevated levels of blood sugar (glucose), but the underlying causes are different.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes used to  be called juvenile diabetes, because it tends to appear during childhood or young adulthood. But, more than 40% of adults with type 1 diabetes are mistakenly diagnosed with type 2.  Less common than type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that happens when your immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas that produce the hormone insulin. Your body needs insulin to balance glucose levels. When those cells are destroyed, your body can’t produce enough insulin to keep glucose under control. If you have type 1 diabetes, you’ll need to monitor your glucose levels frequently and use insulin medication to keep glucose levels under control.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is often referred to as a metabolic disease. In this type of diabetes, your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or your body doesn’t use insulin effectively. At one time, type 2 diabetes occurred almost exclusively in adults. But with childhood obesity rates on the rise, it now often develops in kids and teens, too. Type 2 diabetes is much more common among people who are overweight or obese, as well as those who lead relatively sedentary lives. It’s also more common among people with a family history of diabetes or a personal history of gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy). Another major risk factor for type 2 diabetes is prediabetes, a condition wherein glucose levels are elevated, but not high enough to constitute diabetes. Having regular blood tests to check your glucose levels is essential for diagnosing prediabetes so you can take steps to prevent it from turning into type 2 diabetes.

Similar symptoms

It’s important to note that both types of diabetes can have similar symptoms, like:
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Blurry vision
  • Itchy skin
  • Increase in infections, including urinary tract infections
  • Slow-to-heal sores
If you have any of these symptoms, call your primary care physician and ask about having a blood test to measure your glucose levels.

The importance of managing your diabetes

While people with either type of diabetes need to monitor their glucose levels, management of type 1 and type 2 diabetes can vary. For example, some people with “mild” type 2 diabetes may be able to manage the condition with lifestyle changes like losing weight, being more active, and eating a healthy diet. There is no way to prevent or “cure” type 1 diabetes. This type of diabetes must be managed with regular administration of insulin.  With either type of diabetes, having regular family care doctor visits is very important for ensuring your management plan stays on track with your evolving health needs and lifestyle changes. By sticking to your diabetes management plan, you can decrease your risk of developing diabetes-related complications like:
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney damage
  • Vision loss
  • Nerve damage
  • Ulcers (deep sores) and skin infections
  • Oral health problems
In addition to regularly checking your glucose levels and reviewing your treatment plan, your primary care physician may recommend other medical screenings, like screening for heart disease, to help you stay healthy.

Learn more about diabetes management

Diabetes is associated with serious medical complications, but with proper management, you can reduce those risks and enjoy a healthier lifestyle. To learn how we can help you keep your diabetes under control, book an appointment online or over the phone at Doctors First today.