The Difference Between Type 1 & Type 2 Diabetes

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Type I

Type 1 diabetes used to be called juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes. Five to ten percent of all people with diabetes have this type. In Type I diabetes the body’s immune system attacks the pancreas, destroying the cells that release insulin, thus halting insulin production. Without insulin, sugars cannot be processed by the cells and turned into energy for the body, which is why Type 1 diabetics may experience feelings of exhaustion. Those with Type 1 diabetes may also drink excessive amounts of water. This is because the body uses all of its fluids to try to dilute and flush out the high levels of sugar in the blood, so there is a constant feeling of thirst. If children experience any of these symptoms, a healthcare provider should be consulted. Testing for diabetes is quick and easy, and early prevention is critical.

Type II

Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset or non–insulin-dependent diabetes. Ninety to ninety-five percent of those who have diabetes have this type. As the name implies, Type 2 diabetes usually appears during adulthood. Those who have this disease have a characteristic called insulin resistance, which means the body doesn’t respond to insulin properly, even though it is being produced in some measure. There are many factors that can cause insulin resistance to develop, including genetics, obesity, aging, and a long period of high blood sugar (USCDC 2005).


Type I

  • Symptoms usually start in childhood or young adulthood.
  • Episodes of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) are common.
  • It cannot be prevented.

Type II

  • Symptoms may not occur before diagnosis, but the disease is usually discovered in adulthood.
  • There are usually no episodes of low blood sugar
  • It can be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle.


Both types of diabetes significantly increase a person’s chances for many serious complications, including blindness, kidney failure (renal failure), heart disease, stroke, and foot or leg amputations. The good news? Early diagnosis and carefully managed care between the patient and a team of diabetic management professionals can prevent serious complications and sometimes even reverse some of the effects of diabetes.


U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USCDC) (2005). “National Diabetes Fact Sheet.” Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available online: