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Type 1 diabetes vs. Type 2 diabetes: What’s the difference?

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There are two main forms of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.

People with Type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin. It’s a genetic disorder that often shows up early in life, which is why Type 1 used to be called juvenile diabetes. For people with Type 1, the immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, the organ that produces insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is largely related to diet and develops over time. Roughly 90% of people who have diabetes in the U.S. have Type 2. People with Type 2 diabetes produce some insulin, but it isn’t effective enough because the pancreas can’t keep up with the high blood sugar levels. Some people with Type 2 have insulin resistance, meaning the pancreas produces insulin but the body doesn’t recognize it.

What are the risk factors?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you’re at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes if you:

· Have prediabetes
· Are overweight
· Are 45 years or older
· Have a parent, brother or sister with Type 2 diabetes
· Are physically active less than three times a week
· Have ever had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or given birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
· Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian or Alaska Native

Type 1:

· Family history: Having a parent, brother or sister with Type 1 diabetes.
· Age: You can get Type 1 diabetes at any age, but it’s more likely to develop when you’re a child, teen or young adult.

What are the signs?

Some people don’t notice any symptoms, but there are still some things to pay attention to.

Signs of Type 2 diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic:

· Increased thirst
· Frequent urination
· Increased hunger
· Unintended weight loss
· Fatigue
· Blurred vision
· Slow-healing sores
· Frequent infections
· Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
· Areas of darkened skin, usually in the armpits and neck

Type 1:

· Increased thirst
· Frequent urination
· Bed-wetting in children who previously didn’t wet the bed during the night
· Extreme hunger
· Unintended weight loss
· Irritability and other mood changes
· Fatigue and weakness
· Blurred vision

Do you always need insulin?

People diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes may be able to manage it well enough with a healthy diet, exercise and weight loss while monitoring their blood sugar levels. There are other medications besides insulin that can be beneficial, depending on how much insulin the pancreas produces, but people with Type 2 may still need to go on insulin at some point.

People with Type 1 diabetes usually have a quicker decline than people with Type 2 because the pancreas isn’t producing any insulin. That also means Type 1 diabetics will likely go on insulin right away or soon after their diagnosis.

Can Type 1 become Type 2 — and vice versa?

Type 1 diabetes can’t become Type 2, and Type 2 can’t become Type 1.

Occasionally, someone who has Type 1 diabetes might get an initial diagnosis of Type 2, especially if they’re a young adult. In that case, it would soon be obvious oral medication isn’t working and they would move to insulin.

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