Common Questions about Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes


There are so many questions that come up when you hear the words “diabetes” and “diagnosis”. What does this mean for me? Which form do I have? How did I get this?

We know finding answers to all these questions can be challenging (and draining), so we made an effort to distinguish between the two types of diabetes for you and the basic questions you might have.

So, what is type 1 diabetes and how is it different from type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is linked to your diet and is considered a standard disease. Type 1, however, is an autoimmune, hereditary disease that science still doesn’t know a ton about. Based on the latest research, it is believed that type 1 diabetes is caused by the body’s immune system attacking its own pancreas with antibodies. Globally, 415 million people suffer from diabetes with type 2 diabetes accounting for about 95% of that number.

Which affects my pancreas?

In type 2 diabetes, your pancreas produces some insulin but your body either doesn’t make enough insulin for its needs or your body is resistant to it due to a lack of sensitivity to insulin in fat cells. However, in type 1 diabetes, your pancreas completely fails and thus doesn’t produce insulin at all. Therefore, external insulin is required to keep the digestive system running accordingly.

What is the diagnosis like for these diseases?

Both diseases are screened for with an A1C test that averages your blood sugar over a 3-month period. Based on the results of this test, coupled with age and symptoms (frequent urination, excessive thirst), an endocrinologist diagnoses a patient with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is often correlated with poor dietary choices that result in the body ultimately becoming insulin resistant. On the other hand, type 1 diabetes doesn’t have a proven cause.

Is treatment different for type 1 and type 2?

Type 2 diabetes can have different treatment options including oral medicine or change in diet and exercise. However, in some cases, extra injections or medicine may be prescribed to improve your blood sugar control. Type 1 diabetes is treated with manual injections of insulin multiple times a day. This, used in conjunction with finger pricks, diet, and exercise, helps those of us with type 1 diabetes to control our blood sugar.

So can I prevent type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

To prevent type 2 diabetes, it is recommended to maintain a healthy diet and exercise on a regular basis. Risk increases for those that are overweight or clinically obese. There is no prevention for type 1 diabetes unfortunately. Instead, if you have a family history of diabetes, you should regularly get your A1C checked and stay vigilant for symptoms that are out of the ordinary.

We hope these answers were helpful to you and gave you a brief overview of the main differences, causes, and treatments for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Ask your doctor for specific recommendations and questions about your health.

A big thank you to Kabir Dewan, Children’s Congress Delegate ’19, for writing this post.

-JDRF Greater Western Carolinas