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What's the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

People I talk to are often confused about what types of diabetes they have. The two most common types are type 1 and type 2. The type of diabetes you have will help determine how it needs to be treated.

Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the beta cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin several times a day to survive.

Type 2 diabetes, previously known as adult onset diabetes, is a disease in which the body is resistant to insulin and/or the body does not make enough insulin to bring blood sugars down to a normal level. People with type 2 diabetes may treat their diabetes in a variety of ways including lifestyle changes, oral medications, insulin or other injectable medications.

I often hear people make comments such as “She has the diabetes that you’re born with” and “He has diabetes because he’s overweight”. People with type 1 diabetes do not come out of the womb with it. They are born with a healthy working pancreas, but then at some point their body starts attacking the cells that produce insulin. This can happen to people when they are babies, children, teens and even adults. Type 2 diabetes on the other hand has a more gradual onset and can be caused by a variety of factors, one of them being obesity.

There are other kinds of diabetes as well. Gestational diabetes is when a woman develops diabetes during pregnancy. Other types also include Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY), Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA) and drug-induced diabetes.



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