First, What Exactly Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the blood sugar, or glucose, is too high. Blood glucose is the body’s main source of energy, and it comes from the food we eat. The pancreas makes a hormone, insulin, which helps glucose from the foods you eat get into your cells, to be used for energy.
Some people’s bodies don’t make enough – or any – insulin, or don’t utilize insulin well. When that happens, glucose stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells. This is diabetes.
Over time, high glucose levels in your blood can cause some very serious health problems, so any diagnosis of diabetes needs constant monitoring and medical attention.
The Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
People whose bodies are unable to produce any insulin at all are referred to as having type 1 diabetes.
If your body makes too little insulin, or it cannot use insulin effectively, then you are classified as having type 2 diabetes.
What Happens in a Person with Type 1 Diabetes?
People who have type 1 diabetes (formerly called juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes) account for 5-10% of all people who have diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys the cells that release insulin. Eventually, this autoimmune disorder eliminates all insulin production from the body.
Without insulin, cells cannot absorb the sugar they need to produce energy. That is why the only way to treat type 1 diabetes is with insulin; diet may help, but diet alone cannot treat this condition, and diet cannot prevent it from occurring.
Symptoms for type 1 diabetes often begin in childhood or young adulthood, but adults can also be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. When a person becomes seriously ill from sudden symptoms of high blood sugar, they must seek medical attention to avoid a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is life-threatening and can lead to coma or death.
Type 1 diabetics can also have episodes of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), because their pancreas produces virtually no insulin on its own and must be given through an injection or insulin pump. Type 1 diabetics have to carefully calculate how much insulin to take based on their blood sugar level and what they are going to eat.
A miscalculation in dosage, or eating too little or not quickly enough can lead to low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. The biggest difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is that type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented and requires lifelong daily insulin for survival.
What Happens in a Person with Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes (formerly called adult-onset or non-insulin-dependent diabetes) can develop at any age, becoming most apparent in adulthood. It is by far the more common of the 2 types, with 90-95% of all diabetes cases being type 2 diabetes. A person may not notice any symptoms prior to diagnosis. Usually the disease is discovered in adulthood, but lately, an alarming number of children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It is suspected that this is due to a poor diet and lack of exercise.
There are no episodes of low blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes, unless the person is taking insulin or other diabetes medicines.
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle! This can be accomplished by:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
Both types of diabetes are very serious, as they greatly increase a person’s risk for a variety of serious complications. Monitoring and managing diabetes can reduce the risk of complications. Still, diabetes remains the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure. It is also a critical risk factor for stroke, heart disease, and foot or leg amputations.
If you discover your insulin levels are elevated, please seek medical treatment immediately. For excellent care in monitoring or diagnosing either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, contact South Carolina Internal Medicine Associates & Rehabilitation for comprehensive, compassionate, and truly patient centered care. Call (803) 749-1111 today, or schedule an appointment online.