World Diabetes Day is observed on November 14 every year and it became an official UN day in 2006. Originally, the day was established in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), in response to growing concerns about the health and economic threat posed by diabetes. According to the WHO, “Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterised by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which leads over time to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.” There are two main types of diabetes. “The most common is type 2 diabetes, usually in adults, which occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin. Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin by itself,” the WHO website adds.
Dr Sumeet Arora, Consultant- Paediatric, Endocrinologist at Artemis Hospital, Gurugram, talks about the two different forms of diabetes and the basic difference between the two.
Type 1 Diabetes And Type 2 Diabetes – Differences And Impact
“Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are distinct forms of diabetes, each with its own characteristics, causes, and management approaches. Understanding the differences between these two types is crucial for proper diagnosis, treatment, and lifestyle management,” Dr Sumeet Arora says. He lists the following points:
1. Causes And Onset:
Type 1 Diabetes: Often diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, Type 1 diabetes results from the immune system mistakenly attacking and destroying insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The exact cause is unknown, but genetic factors and environmental triggers may contribute.
Type 2 Diabetes: It is typically diagnosed in adulthood, although increasingly seen in younger individuals. Type 2 diabetes is characterised by insulin resistance and insufficient insulin production. Genetics, lifestyle factors (such as obesity and sedentary behaviour), and ageing play significant roles in its development.
2. Insulin Production
Type 1 Diabetes: Individuals with type 1 diabetes produce little to no insulin due to the destruction of beta cells. They require lifelong insulin replacement through injections or an insulin pump.
Type 2 Diabetes: Initially, the body produces insulin, but cells become resistant to its effects. Over time, insulin production may decrease, leading to a relative insulin deficiency. Treatment may involve lifestyle modifications, oral medications, injectable medications, or insulin.
3. Risk Factors
Type 1 Diabetes: While genetic predisposition plays a role, there’s no direct link to lifestyle factors. Viral infections and environmental triggers may contribute to its onset.
Type 2 Diabetes: Risk factors include a family history of diabetes, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, and age. Ethnicity, gestational diabetes, and certain medical conditions also elevate the risk.
Type 1 Diabetes: Symptoms often develop rapidly and include excessive thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, extreme hunger, and fatigue.
Type 2 Diabetes: Symptoms may develop gradually or go unnoticed. Common signs include increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, blurred vision, and slow wound healing.
Type 1 Diabetes: Requires daily insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump. Continuous blood glucose monitoring, regular physical activity, and a balanced diet are crucial for managing blood sugar levels.
Type 2 Diabetes: Management involves lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthy diet, increasing physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight. Medications may be prescribed, including oral drugs or injectables, and in some cases, insulin.
Type 1 Diabetes: Currently, there’s no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes: Prevention is possible through lifestyle modifications, including a healthy diet, regular exercise, and weight management. Early detection and intervention in individuals at risk can significantly reduce the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes: Individuals with type 1 diabetes are at risk for complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, and eye problems if blood sugar levels are not well-controlled.
Type 2 Diabetes: Complications include heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, and vision problems. The risk is higher in the case of poorly managed blood sugar, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol levels.
“To conclude, recognising the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is crucial for effective management and care. While type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition requiring lifelong insulin therapy, type 2 diabetes is often linked to lifestyle factors and may be managed through a combination of lifestyle changes, medications, and, in some cases, insulin. Early diagnosis, personalised treatment plans, and ongoing support are essential for individuals with diabetes to lead healthy and fulfilling lives,” says Dr Arora.