There are two principal forms of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. Both of them affect the way your body’s cells use glucose. Glucose acts as fuel for the body’s cells, but needs a key to enter them. The hormone insulin is this key. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce insulin. While the body’s cells do not respond to insulin present in type 2 diabetes. Both of these types can cause high blood sugar levels, which could increase the risk of diabetes-related complications.

Difference between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Although Type 1 and Type 2 have many things in common, there are many differences too. They are different in what causes them, how to manage, and who they affect. According to Diabetes Canada, 90% of Canadians with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes, while the rest 10% have Type 1 diabetes, and the causes for vary.

Causes of Type 1 Diabetes

The immune system fights foreign invaders, such as pathogenic bacteria and viruses. But in Type 1 diabetes, the immune system wrongly attacks the body’s own insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. As the cells are destroyed, they are unable to produce insulin. While the exact reason behind this autoimmune attack is not known, it could be linked to genetic and environmental factors.

Causes of Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes involves insulin resistance, where the pancreas produces insulin, but the body’s cells are unable to use it as well as they should. Excess weight and sedentary lifestyle are linked to insulin resistance, and genetic and environmental factors could also contribute. The pancreas tries to compensate for insulin resistance by producing more insulin. However, as the cells cannot use it, glucose builds up in the blood.

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Which is Worse, Type 1 or 2 Diabetes

It is important to understand that both these diabetes types are equally serious. Abnormal sugar levels cause health complications, despite the type. If you have either type of diabetes, it is crucial to manage it as advised by the doctor.


Sudden complications of both diabetes types are:

  • Severely low blood sugar levels due to glucose-lowering medications or a higher insulin dose
  • Abnormally high sugar levels resulting in life-threatening conditions known as hyperosmolar coma or diabetic ketoacidosis

Long-term complications include:

  • Neuropathy
  • Retinopathy
  • Cardiovascular disorders

Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms

Either type of diabetes, if not controlled, can have similar symptoms, such as:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurred bison
  • Excess appetitive
  • Fatigue
  • Slow healing of wounds

Although the symptoms are the same, they present in different ways. The appearance of symptoms in Type 1 diabetes is sudden, while in Type 2 diabetes, the onset of symptoms is gradual. Many with Type 2 diabetes may not even have any symptoms unless complications develop. Those with Type 1 diabetes may have mood changes and irritability and unintentional weight loss, with symptoms developing earlier in life and that of Type 2 diabetes in later life.

How to Diagnose Type 1 Diabetes vs. Type 2

The main test for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is the glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test. This aids in understanding your average sugar levels for the last two or three months. It is a blood test where the doctor draws blood through a finger prick. The higher the sugar levels in the past few months, the higher is the A1C level. A level of 6.5% or above is diagnosed as diabetes.

Other common tests include:

  • Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT): Normal – less than 140 mg/dl, diabetes – 200 mg/dl and above
  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test: Normal – less than 100 mg/dl, diabetes – 126 mg/dl and above
  • Random plasma glucose (RPG) test: Normal – less than 200 mg/dl, diabetes – 200mg/dl and above
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Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes Treatment

Type 1 Diabetes Treatment

As the body normally responds to insulin, the ideal choice of treatment is insulin. The doctor would prescribe insulin injections, which can be taken in soft tissues such as arms, stomach, or buttocks. Insulin pumps can also be used where a steady amount of insulin is introduced in the body through a small tube.

Type 2 Diabetes Treatment

In this case, the treatment is more complicated as the pancreas already produces insulin, but the cells cannot use it effectively. For many people, making lifestyle changes such as weight loss and physical activity help in managing the condition.

In cases where lifestyle factors are not sufficient, your doctor may prescribe medications. Multiple medications can be used alone or in a combination of others and include:

  • Sulfonylurea
  • Meglitinides
  • Biguanides
  • Alpha-glucosidase inhibitor
  • DPP-IV inhibitors
  • SGLT2 inhibitors

Final Thoughts

Although both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes cause high blood sugar levels, there are several differences. Their causes, progress, and management are different. Regardless of the type of diabetes, following the doctor’s advice and taking prescribed medications are essential to prevent any complications.

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