Differences between type 1 and type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition with increasing incidence and prevalence worldwide. Understanding the causes  and differences allows you to make steps towards prevention of its complications. While both type 1 and type 2 are associated with increase in  blood sugar levels, differences exists.  In this article, you will learn about the causes and differences  type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes
Often diagnosed in childhoodUsually diagnosed in over 30 year olds
Not associated with excess body weightOften associated with excess body weight
Often associated with higher than normal ketone levels at diagnosisOften associated with high blood pressure and/or cholesterol levels at diagnosis
Treated with insulin injections or insulin pumpIs usually treated initially without medication or with tablets
Cannot be controlled without taking insulinSometimes possible to come off diabetes medication

Type 1 diabetes

Associated with autoimmunity, type 1 diabetes is diagnosed early in childhood and early adulthood. People with type 1 diabetes require insulin for life, their pancreas is on strike and produces less or no insulin.


Autoimmunity is a condition where your body fails to recognize self-tissue and targets it for destruction via various immune mechanisms. Beta islet cells are destroyed in type 1 diabetes. In the same vein, insulin (hormone that reduces blood glucose levels) can also be destroyed through autoimmune mechanism.

Antibodies against Beta cells (produces insulin) and Insulin

Studies have demonstrated three antibodies in type 1 diabetics: anti islet cell, anti-insulin and anti-GAD-65 (an enzyme) antibodies. Diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is based on demonstration of these antibodies in the serum.

Weight loss is a characteristic feature of type 1 unlike in type 2 diabetes which is associated with weight gain. Apart for autoimmunity, viral infections such mumps, are indicated as a cause of type 1 diabetes. Being a chronic condition, type 1 diabetes should be monitored constantly

With the advent of new technology, the management of type 1 diabetes has never been any easier. Continuous glucose monitoring allows type 1 diabetics to monitor their blood glucose levels all the time. Blood sugar monitoring is a significant aspect of controlling type diabetes. With glucose monitoring, deadly complications such diabetic acidosis can be avoided.

Type 2 Diabetes

On the other hand, type 2 diabetes is diagnosed in adulthood. However, recent studies suggest that younger population who are obese, physically inactive and take too much chunk food can be diagnosed with type 2. Type 2 diabetes as several causes: genetics and lifestyle factors are the most documented. A combination of these factors leads to insulin resistance, where the body does not use insulin as it should be. In type 2, the pancreas produces insulin but fails to work at its target site. Insulin resistance is the most common cause of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes can be hereditary

Genetics play a role in diabetes. It is not cast on stone that if your mother or father has diabetes you’re going to get it too. Instead, it means that you have a bigger risk of developing it.

Studies shows that you can inherit a risk of type 2 diabetes, but exact pinpointing the exact genes is a challenge. Research is ongoing to identify the specific mutations that lead to diabetes.

Life style factors play an important role too,

Genetics play a role in diabetes, but lifestyle factors are also imperative. You can be genetically predisposed to diabetes, but if you take good care of your body, you may not develop diabetes.

Consider two people who have the same genetic risk for type 2 diabetes. One of them is careful with diet, monitors cholesterol levels, does regular exercise, and the other is obese, eats chunk food and does not exercise. The person who is obese and inactive is much more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than the other because some lifestyle choices and habits influence how our body utilizes insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is influenced by the following lifestyle habits.

  1. Physical inactivity: Exercise increases insulin sensitivity and can assist you avoid type 2 diabetes.
  2. Unhealthy diet plan: A meal plan with increased cholesterol containing foods, high fat and low fiber (fruits, vegetables and grains) increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
  3. Obesity:  Physical inactivity and unhealthy diet can lead to obesity. Overweight and central obesity makes it more likely that you will become insulin resistant.

Insulin Resistance

Combination of lifestyle factors and genes lead to insulin resistance. If your body is insulin resistant, it does not utile insulin properly.

Your pancreas may produce sufficient insulin to transport glucose into cells, but your body is insulin resistant. Blood glucose levels increase leading hyperglycemia: type 2 diabetes.