As someone who has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, understanding the key differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is the first step to proper management and treatment.

From the stages of progression to the various symptoms and different methods of treatment, there are many factors that make living with each type of diabetes different. It’s also important to know how these two kinds of diabetes are alike.

Know the differences

When it comes to the primary difference between these two conditions, the important thing to know is this: type 1 diabetes occurs when the body doesn't produce insulin, while type 2 diabetes happens when the body does not produce enough insulin or doesn't use insulin properly.

What causes the lack of insulin production in type 1 diabetes? The body's immune system has a disorder that attacks and eliminates the cells that make insulin.

With type 2 diabetes, muscle, fat, and liver cells are not using insulin produced by the pancreas to transfer glucose to the body's cells for energy, which ultimately leads to the pancreas being unable to keep up with the increased demand for insulin.

Essentially, type 1 is considered an autoimmune disease, whereas type 2 is referred to as a metabolic disorder.

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Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed in children and young adults.

Type 1 diabetes is the less common of the two and is typically diagnosed in children or young adults. According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, of the nearly 26 million people in the United States who have diabetes, there are currently 1.25 million living with type 1.

As the National Institutes of Health notes, type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in middle-aged to older adults. Nevertheless, factors such as obesity or physical inactivity may contribute to developing type 2 diabetes at a younger age.

Risk factors

Genetic factors may raise the risk of developing both types of diabetes. But diabetes research has shown that type 2 is more often inherited than type 1.

According to the Diabetic Care Services and Pharmacy website, scientists have discovered 18 genes specifically related to type 1 diabetes so far. Other factors such as ethnicity, climate, and environmental factors may also raise the risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

For type 2 diabetes, lifestyle has a lot to do with the risk of developing the disease. As the Mayo Clinic points out, being overweight is one of the biggest risk factors, since an excess in fatty tissue makes it harder for cells to absorb the insulin necessary to function. Not being active enough may also increase the odds of developing type 2. The American Diabetes Association reports that the more active a person is, the more efficiently the body can use insulin.

Check out part two of this series to learn more about the similarities between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as well as the primary ways both conditions are treated.

For more on type 1 and type 2 diabetes:

Can Type 2 Diabetes Turn into Type 1?
Type 1 Diabetes Increases in Elementary-Age White Kids
New Inhaled Insulin Approved for Type 1 and Type 2 Patients