Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes

About 34 million Americans are living with diabetes. That means there’s a high likelihood you, or someone you know, has it. Diabetes occurs when your body is unable to take up sugar (glucose) into its cells and use it for energy, resulting in a buildup of extra sugar in your bloodstream. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause numerous problems for your body’s organs and tissues — including your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.

There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. We’ll walk you through the key differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes and look at treatment options for you or a loved one.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. It develops rapidly and having it means your body’s pancreas doesn’t make the insulin your body needs to get glucose from your bloodstream to your body’s cells. So, it’s critical to manage your insulin therapy and diet closely.

While it can be diagnosed at any age, the onset is especially common in young children and teens. Insulin is needed to help regulate your glucose levels between meals, and fast-acting insulin to regulate it after meals.

Symptoms can be severe and even life-threatening. Watch for these signs, and if you notice them, talk to your primary care doctor as soon as you can:

  • Bed-wetting in children who’ve never wet the bed before
  • Blurred vision
  • Excessive thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Mood changes and irritability
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Weakness and fatigue

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is not an autoimmune disease and develops over time slowly. It’s most commonly diagnosed in adulthood but can occur at any age.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for the majority of people on the diabetes spectrum and means your body is insulin-resistant, which means your pancreas still makes insulin, but your cells no longer respond the way they should. Your pancreas increases insulin production trying to force your cells to work.

Common symptoms of type 2 diabetes include blurry vision, dry mouth, extreme thirst and hunger, fatigue, frequent urination, headaches and unexplained weight loss.

You may be at risk for type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Are over age 45
  • Are overweight
  • Don’t get enough physical activity
  • Have a parent, sister or brother with diabetes type 2
  • Have been diagnosed as pre-diabetic
  • Have had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)

Treatment Options for Diabetes

Your primary care physician will serve as your centralized care manager with your endocrinologist (the specialist that treats diabetes), a registered dietitian or nutritionist, eye doctor, foot doctor, dentist, diabetes educator and pharmacist. Failing to treat diabetes of any type can cause blindness, stroke, heart disease, nerve damage, amputations of limbs and/or kidney failure.

No matter which type of diabetes you may have, the tests used to diagnose diabetes are:

  • Oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTT) compare your blood sugar before and after you drink a sugary solution. A result of 140 or above suggests you have pre-diabetes. A result over 200 indicates you have diabetes.
  • A1C (A-One-C) tests to measure your average blood sugar over the past two to three months. Pre-diabetes is indicated if your result is over 5.7, and a result of over 6.5 shows diabetes.
  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) tests to measure your blood sugar after you’ve fasted for at least eight hours. A result over 100 shows pre-diabetes and a result over 126 indicates diabetes.

Diabetes Management for a Whole You

Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, know that it’s very treatable when managed properly and consistently. Learning as much as you can about your type of diabetes gives you more control over the illness and gives you quicker medical treatment so you can work to prevent long-term complications.

To protect your whole health, call the Member Experience Center at 855-747-7476 to find a Primary Care physician who can work with you to not only help you manage your diabetes but to live life to the fullest.


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