Thursday, September 12, 2013

Diabetes - The Differences Between Type 1 and Type 2

As many of you know, I'm a mom, raising a daughter with type 1 diabetes. Nothing about this disease has been fun. And what I've found over the past two years is that people think that type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the same. They are not!
Type 2 diabetes is a result of people not taking care of themselves. Their pancreas produces insulin (sometimes just not as much), but their body no longer absorbs it. Their body has become insulin resistent. Insulin resistence can be caused by being overweight, having high blood pressure for a long period of time, and even a person's genetic make-up. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle, which includes exercising, weight control, and eating healthy. Today, type 2 diabetes makes up about 90 - 95% of diabetics and most type 2 diabetics are over the age of 40 years.
With type 1 diabetes, a person's pancreas no longer produces insulin, a result of something (i.e. virus) that attacked the insulin producing beta cells of their pancreas. The most difficult part of someone having type 1 diabetes is that no one knows what destroyed their insulin producing cells. Today, there isn't a cure and it can't be delayed. The most common age for the onset of type 1 diabetes is 5 to 7 years old. It's known as a child and young adult disease.
My type 1 diabetic daughter is thin, healthy, and active. She plays sports and eats healthy. Supposedly, she got a virus which attacked the beta cells of her pancreas, killing them. She now is 100% insulin dependent. Her pancreas cannot produce insulin, but can absorb it if given. This disease is considered an autoimmune disease.
The highs and lows a type 1 diabetic has is a constant juggling act. The weather, their stress level, their emotional state, and their health all impacts their blood sugar. It’s not just food that a type 1 diabetic has to worry about. It’s everything they do and feel. A simple pill won't fix their problem. Exercising, losing weight, and eating healthy won't cure them or delay their illness. Every day, until their is a cure, they have to have insulin shots or wear an insulin pump which is attached to their body. And six to ten times a day they have to check their blood sugar by pricking their fingers to prevent and better manage their highs and lows.
Trying to predict how a change in a type 1 diabetics lifestyle will affect their blood sugar is like trying to predict the lotto. Just yesterday, my daughter's blood sugar was 56 at school. She had just come in from recess which burned off some of her blood sugar. Normally, you would give her a 15 carb juice and some protein to raise her blood sugar, and then check it again in 15 minutes. But Madison's scenario was a little different. She had eaten lunch about 45 minutes earlier, so she had insulin still in her body (2 units), processing all the carbs she had eaten for lunch. The teacher and nurse were trained to take into account the insulin on board, meaning give her enough juice and protein to cover the insulin that her insulin pump said she still had in her body so she didn't drop more.  But for Madison, her body works differently. The insulin on board was still processing the carbs. Her body works slower than other type 1 diabetics when processing certain carbs. When Madison got home, her blood sugar was 351. They had given her way too much to eat and drink.
The above scenario is constant in a type 1 diabetics life. Every thing they do, feel and eat affects their blood sugar, causing them to have to constantly stay on top of their blood sugar by checking it every two to three hours. There are minutes during the day where we haven't a clue why Madison's blood sugar is dropping or why it is all of a sudden high.
Differences between type 1 and type 2:
  • Type 2 diabetes can be prevented, delayed and even cured if they start eating healthier and exercise. Type 1 cannot be cured today.
  • Type 2 diabetes can happen at any age. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in children and young adults. Like I mentioned earlier, the most common age for the onset of type 1 diabetes is 5 to 7 years old.
  • Some type 2 diabetics don't need medicine. Some need to take pills daily. And some do need insulin shots. With type 1, all have to take insulin shots or wear an insulin pump.
  • People with type 1 diabetes have to manage their highs and lows by checking their blood sugar 6 to 10 times a day, depending on their activity level and daily events.
Similarities between type 1 and type 2:
  • Both can lead to major complications if not managed such as blindness, kidney failure and loss of limb.
I hope you will share any additional similarities and differences that I may have missed.


  1. My Mum is a type 1 diabetic and has been since I was born so I've grown up with this and the threat of it has been hanging over me since getting gestational diabetes in my second pregnancy, I'm told I have a 50% chance of being diagnosed in the next 5 years :o/
    I really feel for your little lady and I hope she is able to get on with her life without too much disruption.

  2. Hi Melissa,
    This is a great post! I was diagnosed with Type I when I was 16 years old. I was healthy and thin, really no reason for my pancreas to give up. I guess it was just in my DNA. My younger brother was worse. He was diagnosed when he was only 2 months old back in 1975. No one knew much about diabetes back then. But when my mom discovered his diaper filled with sugar ants...she knew something was wrong. Back then there were no pumps, no machines to check blood sugars. The only way to know your baby's blood sugar reading was to squeeze as much urine from the diaper and onto a stick that turned a certain color and gave you a range. A baby that cannot communicate yet and is unable to tell you if he is feeling on the low or high side. To top it off we were living in Cuba, a poor communist country with VERY little resources and food is scarce. My brother was in and out of hospitals and finally the doctors told my parents that if they didn't get him out of the country he would die. We left Cuba on a makeshift boat and landed in Florida. Today my brother is 38 years old. He is very fit and healthy and has 2 beautiful sons (neither is diabetic). The rest is history!

  3. I have a sister who has Type 2 Diabetes, she is not over weight, in fact she is under weight, she walks 2 miles everyday and has participated in many 5k run/walks, she eats very healthy, almost excessively and she is over 40. She also has to check her levels 4-6 times a day and she takes 3 pills a day so she will not be insulin dependent. In my family, it is genetic, an autoimmune disease. Lynn H

  4. This is such an important distinction! Not everyone knows that there are two types! Great way to introduce people to it! It's unfortunate that people don't realize how preventable Type 2 is in a lot of cases by proper diet and exercise. Because parents have it, there is an acceptance by the children that they will get it too. Even though it's not preventable in all cases, knowing how to prevent it is an important fact!

    I hope you'll stop by and link up to my Fitness Fridays:

  5. Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts!

  6. This post is near and dear to my heart because I have an aunt who is more than likely one who has type 1 diabetes. The doctors said she must have been for years prior even in childhood when she told them of symptoms she's had for years. She's now in her 40s and has been on an insulin pump for a long time. She's changed drastically how she eats and has been better but we don't know what will become of it as far as a cure is concerned nice it could be type 1. We just pray for her always nd trust God for her healing. Thanks so much for linking up to Mommy Monday this week! xoxo


    1. My prayers are with your aunt, too! And to a CURE! Thanks so much for sharing. xoxo Melissa

  7. I am sure the information and support you provide will be of tremendous help to other families. I will save the article and offer to families at my school.


  8. This is a great post because so many people don't know the difference between Type I and Type II. When I taught kindergarten, I had a little girl in my class who was also Type 1. She had an insulin pump, which made it easy for me during meal and snack times. She was such an amazing kid because, even at 5, she could tell if she was feeling "high" or "low." I would test her when she would tell me, and she was always right. Sometimes we don't give kids enough credit for being so in tune with their bodies.

    By the way, your daughter is adorable!

  9. Hi Becky! Thanks so much for commenting. Two years ago, I thought the same. But they are truly two separate diseases. Kids are so amazing. My daughter smiles everyday thru what I think is a tough disease to live with.