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What's The Difference Between Type 1 And Type 2 Diabetes?

What’s The Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?

Diabetes is a long term or “chronic” metabolic disorder which is characterised by persistently raised levels of blood glucose/blood sugar in the body since the body either cannot produce enough insulin or cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.

Insulin is an essential hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin helps glucose enter the body’s cells, where it is converted into energy. Insulin is also important for the metabolism of fats and protein. A shortage of insulin or the inability of cells to use it, cause an increase in level of circulating blood glucose (hyperglycaemia) which is the main clinical indicator of diabetes.

Whats is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is caused by an auto-immune reaction in which the body’s immune system attacks the Beta Insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. As a result of this, the body produces little to no insulin resulting in the need to use daily insulin injections to maintain blood glucose levels within the appropriate range, without which, they would not survive.

Whats causes it?

The cause of the destructive auto-immune reaction is not widely known, but has been attributed to genetic susceptibility, environmental factors, as well as toxins and dietary contributors. The incidence of Type 1 diabetes is increasing world-wide and is thought to be more due to environmental and lifestyle factors such as weight gain and/or inappropriate infant feeding.

Typical symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include:

-Excessive thirst (Polydipsia)

-Frequent urination (Polyuria)

-Blurred vision

-Lack of energy


-Constant hunger (polyphagia)

-Bed wetting

-Sudden loss of weight

It is important to note that the classical symptoms listed above may not be present, often leading to a delay in diagnosis.

Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed by an elevated blood glucose level in the presence of some (rarely all) of the symptoms listed above. However, diagnosis can be difficult and may require additional testing to distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Treatments include insulin therapy which will be initialised by your treating healthcare provider.

What is Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes (formerly called non-insulin dependent diabetes) is characterised as a disorder of insulin action and insulin production. In type 2 diabetes, hyperglycaemia is a result of the body’s inability to respond to insulin commonly referred to as insulin resistance. During insulin resistance, the hormone insulin is ineffective, and as a result prompts an increase in insulin production. Over time, inadequate production of insulin results because Beta-pancreatic cells are not able to keep up with the demand.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for more than 90% of diabetes cases and occurs most commonly in older adults, however it has been seen increasingly in young adults as a result of obesity, physical inactivity and unsuitable diet.

How do I know if I have diabetes?

Typical symptoms of type 2 diabetes:

-Excessive thirst (Polydipsia)

-Frequent urination (Polyuria)

-Weight loss despite no change in diet

Other symptoms:

  • Blurred vision
  • General body weakness or lethargy
  • Susceptibility of infection especially to the skin, urogenital tract and respiratory tract
  • Pruritis valvae (itching of the female genitalia)
  • Poor wound healing

These symptoms may not be severe or may even be absent. For this reason , this form of diabetes is commonly undiagnosed for many years because the hyperglycaemia is not severe enough to cause  noticeable symptoms of diabetes.

Long term hyperglycaemia can cause damage to the body’s organs leading to life threatening complications such as:

  • heart disease (cardiovascular disease)
  • Stroke (Cerebrovascular disease)
  • Nerve damage (Neuropathy)
  • Kidney damage (Nephropathy)
  • Eye damage (Retinopathy) leading to visual loss and blindness

If appropriate management of diabetes is achieved quickly and early, these serious complications can be delayed or prevented.

How is Type 2 diabetes diagnosed?

Diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes can be made using various blood tests, some of which will reflect the blood sugar level when

  • fasted (Impaired Fasting glucose)
  • responding to glucose (Impaired glucose tolerance)
  • reflect the average blood glucose reading over the last 3 months (HbA1c)

How is type 2 diabetes treated?

Treating Type 2 diabetes includes a careful selection of appropriate medication by your healthcare provider, including lifestyle change which encompasses a healthy diet, regular physical activity, smoking cessation and maintaining a healthy body weight.

As a member of Affinity Health, you gain access to our Diabetes Management Programme. This assists members in managing their diabetes and provides them with tools to manage their overall health.

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