Type 1 Diabetes Vs Type 2 Diabetes: Symptoms, Risk Factors & Treatments

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Longevity 120 took a look at Type 1 diabetes vs Type 2 and here's what we found.

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease that presents with blood glucose levels that are too high. If an individual has diabetes, their pancreas doesn't make enough insulin, or their body cannot use the insulin that the pancreas produces.

Glucose from food has to pass from the bloodstream into the cells to produce energy. For this to happen, your pancreas produces the hormone insulin. Insulin is like a key that opens cells for glucose to be able to enter.

With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas releases little to no insulin, which means the cells can't use glucose to produce energy. If a person has type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces insulin, but the body is resistant to the hormone, and glucose cannot enter the cells. In both cases, the result is a blood sugar level that is too high.

This article looks at type 1 diabetes vs type 2 diabetes, including symptoms, risk factors, and prevention.


The symptoms of type 1 diabetes typically develop during childhood or adolescence, but these symptoms can appear at any age. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes can also develop at any age, but they are more likely to occur after 40.

Diabetes symptoms depend on the level of blood sugar. The symptoms of type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are similar and include:

  • Excessive thirst and dry mouth
  • Extreme hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Lack of energy or chronic fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Tingling sensations or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Slow healing of wounds
  • Recurring skin infections
  • Sudden and unexplained weight loss

A person with type 2 diabetes may not present these symptoms for several years. However, with type 1 diabetes, the symptoms appear quickly, and they tend to be severe.

Causes Of Type 1 Diabetes

There is some uncertainty surrounding the causes of type 1 diabetes. However, there is evidence that it is an autoimmune condition. The immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the pancreatic beta cells, which are what secrete insulin. By targeting these cells, the immune system inhibits the production of insulin by the pancreas.

The following factors can cause the immune system to target the pancreatic beta cells:

  • Genetic factors
  • Environmental elements
  • Illnesses such as hemochromatosis and cystic fibrosis
  • Exposure to Rubella cytomegalovirus or Mumps orthorubulavirus

Causes Of Type 2 Diabetes

With type 2 diabetes, the body cells become resistant to the effect of insulin, and glucose can't enter the cells to produce energy. The early stage of type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance or pre-diabetes.

Initially, if a person with insulin resistance maintains a low sugar- and carbohydrate intake, the pancreatic beta cells will release more insulin to compensate for this resistance. Over time, however, the pancreatic beta cells will stop releasing the insulin that your body needs to convert glucose into energy.

How Common Is Diabetes?

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in ten Americans have diabetes, and one in three Americans are resistant to insulin. Around 25% of people with diabetes don't know that they have the condition.

Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2. The yearly estimated incidence of type 1 diabetes ranges from 4 to 20 per 10,000, about 10% of all diabetes diagnoses. 90% of all people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes Vs Type 2: Risk Factors

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, and type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease. However, there are overlapping risk factors for the two types.

The risk factors for type 1 diabetes include genetics and family history. Children between the ages of 4 and 7 also have a higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

Interestingly, there is evidence to suggest that geographic location is a risk factor. The further you move away from the equator, the higher your risk for type 1 diabetes.

Family history and genetics are also risk factors for type 2 diabetes. However, with this type of diabetes, lifestyle factors also come into play. Obesity is the most significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Your risk for type 2 diabetes effectively doubles for every 20% that you are over your desirable body weight.

An unhealthy diet is another prominent risk factor. Carbs, such as sugar and starches, break down into glucose and increase your blood sugar level. People who regularly consume bread, pasta, rice, fruit-flavored yogurt, and sweetened breakfast cereals have a high risk of type 2 diabetes.

Other risk factors of type 2 diabetes include a sedentary lifestyle, increasing age, high blood pressure, and impaired glucose tolerance. A woman who has a history of gestational diabetes also has a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Diagnosis And Testing

Diagnosing diabetes requires a fasting sugar blood test or an A1c blood test, which is a glycated hemoglobin test. Before taking a fasting sugar blood test, you cannot eat or drink for eight hours. Fasting is not necessary with an A1c blood test.

A healthy, fasting blood sugar level is lower than 100 mg/dl (5.6 mmol/l). After testing, a doctor will make a diagnosis of diabetes if:

  • Blood sugar levels are equal to or higher than 126mg/dl (7 mmol/l)
  • Your oral glucose tolerance test indicates a level higher than 200 mg/dl (11.1 mmol/l)
  • Two random blood sugar tests show a level higher than 200 mg/dl (11.1 mmol/l) along with symptoms
  • The A1c test shows results of 6.5% or higher on two separate occasions

A laboratory has to conduct an A1c blood test according to Diabetes Control and Complications Trial standards, using a method that the National Glycohemoglobin Standardization Program certified.


Type 1 Diabetes

If a person has type 1 diabetes, their body responds correctly to insulin. However, the pancreas doesn't release this hormone to allow glucose into the cells. Treatment is critical to prevent severe symptoms and emergencies such as hypoglycemia and loss of consciousness.

With type 1 diabetes treatment, the objective is to keep the blood sugar levels as normal as possible with the following treatments:

  • Lifelong insulin therapy
  • Counting fat, carbohydrate, and protein intake
  • Continuous blood sugar level monitoring
  • Following a healthy diet
  • Regular exercise

A doctor may prescribe additional medication to patients with type 1 diabetes, including aspirin, blood pressure medication, and cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Type 2 Diabetes

With the management of type 2 diabetes, the focus is on the following:

  • Monitoring blood sugar levels
  • Weight loss
  • Following a healthy diet
  • Regular exercise

If the pancreatic beta cells no longer release insulin, insulin therapy is necessary. Type 2 diabetes treatment may also include the administration of the following medications:

  • Metformin: reduces glucose production by the liver and makes the body more responsive to insulin
  • Thiazolidinediones and sulfonylureas: increase the secretion of insulin
  • DPP-4 inhibitors: reduce blood sugar levels
  • GLP-receptor agonists: slow digestion and lower blood sugar levels

Some of these medications cause side-effects, such as weight gain and joint pain. Thiazolidinediones may also increase a patient's risk of heart failure and anemia.


If you have diabetes, it is critical to control your blood sugar level and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Failure to do so will increase your risk of several complications in the long run. These problems can affect your feet, eyes, heart, brain, and kidneys.


High blood glucose levels can lead to peripheral artery disease, which reduces blood flow to your legs and feet. Uncontrolled glucose may also result in peripheral neuropathy or the loss of sensation in your feet. Sores and cuts take a long time to heal, and you may also experience cramps or pain that extend from your feet to your legs.

Without proper treatment and blood sugar management, diabetes can cause infections and ulcers in the feet. If the infection is widespread or if there is extensive damage to the feet, amputations may be necessary.


Having diabetes increases your risk of conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and open-angle glaucoma.

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that affects the retina, which is the part of the eye that detects light and sends signals to the brain via the optic nerve. This eye condition can also cause other problems such as diabetic macular edema, neovascular glaucoma, or retinal detachment.


Heart disease and stroke are the most common causes of death in adults with diabetes. High blood sugar can damage the blood vessels and the nerves that control them. If you have diabetes, you should manage your blood sugar as well as your blood pressure and cholesterol to mitigate your risk of heart disease and stroke.


High blood sugar can cause kidney complications by damaging your kidneys' blood vessels and the nerves in your body. Because diabetes can also affect the nerves, you may not know when your bladder is full, which may lead to a urinary tract infection.


Currently, there is no way to predict or prevent type 1 diabetes. Even if blood tests show early signs of type 1 diabetes, there is no way to stop the disease from developing.

If you don't have type 1 diabetes, your body usually responds to the insulin that your pancreatic beta cells release. However, through obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and excessive weight gain, your body will become resistant to insulin.

Even with genetic and environmental factors stacked against you, it is possible to prevent type 2 diabetes. Below, we look at some of the preventative measures you can take to reduce insulin resistance and promote insulin secretion by the pancreas.


Following a healthy diet is one of the most effective ways to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Include the following foods in your meal plan to prevent type 2 diabetes or to have a healthier lifestyle with type 1 diabetes:

  • Fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, herring, sardines, and anchovies
  • Eggs to improve insulin sensitivity and decrease inflammation
  • Green vegetables such as kale, spinach, and broccoli
  • Extra-virgin olive oil to improve triglycerides, reduce inflammation, and protect the cells that line your blood vessels
  • Flaxseed to improve insulin sensitivity and hemoglobin A1c
  • Fresh fruit, including avocado
  • Proteins, including beans, nuts, seeds, and chicken

To prevent diabetes, try to stay away from food with a high carbohydrate content. These items include white bread, processed grains, and potatoes. Before buying things like yogurt, canned vegetables, or sour cream, check the nutrition information to ensure that there are no more than 2 grams of sugar per 100 grams of the product. For reference, 5 grams is one heaped teaspoon of sugar.

In addition to cutting carbs from your diet, you should also stay away from sweetened beverages. A 12-ounce soft drink can contain up to 39 grams of sugar, which is enough to cause a blood sugar level spike. To limit your risk of type 2 diabetes, you should also drink your tea and coffee without sugar.

Exercise, Move It

When you exercise, your cells' insulin sensitivity increases and your body needs less insulin to convert glucose into energy. The best exercises to prevent diabetes include high-intensity strength interval training, aerobics, and strength training.

If you live a sedentary lifestyle, start with an exercise that you enjoy, for example, cycling. As your fitness level increases, you can transition to a more intense program.

Even at a moderate intensity, exercise can increase your insulin sensitivity by up to 50%, which will go a long way to prevent type 2 diabetes. A high-intensity exercise routine can increase your body's responsiveness to insulin by 85%.


Water is your body's primary chemical component, and all your cells and organs need water to function correctly. Water plays several critical physiological roles, including:

  • Body temperature regulation
  • Removal of bodily waste through urine
  • Joint lubrication
  • The protection of sensitive tissue

In addition to these functions, drinking enough water will allow for better blood sugar control and insulin response. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the appropriate daily fluid intake is 3.7 liters for men and 2.7 liters for women. If 80% of this recommended intake comes from water, it will help you avoid sugary beverages that are harmful to your health.

Lose Weight

The majority of people who develop type 2 diabetes are overweight. Visceral fat, which is the excess weight around the abdominal organs, promotes insulin resistance and inflammation, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes significantly.

By losing this excess weight, you reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes as well as cardiovascular disease. If you maintain a healthy diet, follow a moderate-intensity exercise routine, and drink enough water, you will lose all the visceral fat around your midsection.

Give Smoking The Flick

Smoking is a prominent risk factor for type 2 diabetes. According to the Food and Drug Administration, smokers' risk of developing type 2 diabetes is up to 40% higher than that of non-smokers.

Smoking increases the risk of diabetes by interfering with your cells' normal function, inhibiting their ability to use insulin to convert glucose into energy. The chemicals from cigarettes also cause inflammation and oxidative stress, which are both contributors to type 2 diabetes development.

If you already have type 1- or type 2 diabetes, it is critical to stop smoking. Even if you exercise and eat healthy, smoking can prevent you from controlling your diabetes and safeguarding your health.

Vitamin D

Maintaining a vitamin D blood level of 30 ng/ml or more will improve your body's sensitivity to insulin and reduce the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. There is also medical evidence to suggest that vitamin D can reduce children's risk of type 1 diabetes.

Healthy sources of vitamin D include fatty fish and cod liver oil. Direct exposure to sunlight is also an effective way to increase vitamin D levels.

Type 1 Diabetes Vs Type 2: Summing Up

Type 1- and type 2 diabetes are both conditions that result in blood sugar levels that are too high. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the pancreas doesn't release insulin. With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas makes insulin, but the body is resistant to the hormone, which prevents the cells from converting blood glucose into energy.

If you are insulin resistant, your pancreas will produce more insulin to overcome the resistance. However, your pancreas is like a tired horse, and too much strain will eventually result in insulin production suspension.

Monitor your blood glucose levels, stay away from starch and sugar, and get enough exercise to improve your insulin sensitivity and keep your blood sugar levels low. Don't wait for your insulin resistance to develop into type 2 diabetes before making the necessary lifestyle changes.

By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you can prevent type 2 diabetes. Even if you are insulin resistant, you can make the necessary changes to control your blood sugar levels and live a healthy and active life.

Rosemary Richards