What is the difference between diabetes type 1 and diabetes type 2?

Diabetes (otherwise known as diabetes mellius, DM) is described as a metabolic disorder in which your body cannot properly store and use fuel for energy.

The fuel that your body needs is called glucose (sugar). Glucose comes from foods such as breads, cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruits and some vegetables and is also made in your liver and muscles. Your blood carries glucose to all of your body’s cells to use for energy.

To use glucose, your body needs insulin. Insulin is the hormone made by a gland in your body called the pancreas. Insulin regulates blood glucose by stimulating the removal of glucose from the blood and its uptake into muscle, liver and fat cells where it can be stored for energy.

Sometimes your body does not make enough insulin or the insulin does not work the way it should. Glucose then stays in your blood and does not reach your cells. Your blood glucose levels get too high (hyperglycemia) and can cause diabetes or prediabetes. Prediabetes is when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes.

Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause health problems.

There are two major causes of the metabolic disease:1

  1. Your body makes too little or no insulin. This is called type 1 diabetes, insulin-dependent diabetes (IDDM).
  2. Your body can not use the insulin it makes. This is called type 2 diabetes, non-insulin dependent diabetes (NIDDM).

This Medical News Today information page will explain the difference between diabetes type 1 and diabetes type 2, describe what it is, what causes them, who gets the problem and the symptoms they have, how it is diagnosed, and offer an overview of treatment options for people with diabetes type 1 or diabetes type 2.

You will also see introductions at the end of some sections to any recent developments that have been covered by MNT’s news stories. Also look out for links to information about related conditions.

Fast Facts

  • 25.8 million children and adults in the United States – 8.3% of the population – have diabetes.2
  • 1.9 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in people aged 20 years and older in 2010.2
  • 13.0 million, or 11.8% of all men aged 20 years or older have diabetes.2
  • 12.6 million, or 10.8% of all women aged 20 years or older have diabetes.2
  • Diabetes contributed to 231,404 deaths in the US in 2007.2
  • $245 billion: Total costs of diagnosed diabetes in the United States in 2012.2
  • Only 5% of people with diabetes have type 1. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that may be caused by genetic, environmental, or other factors.2
  • Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90%-95% of diabetes cases and is usually associated with older age, obesity and physical inactivity, family history of type 2 diabetes, or a personal history of gestational diabetes.2
  • There is no known way to prevent diabetes type 1. Effective treatment requires the use of insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes can be prevented through healthy food choices, physical activity, and weight loss. It can be controlled with these same activities, but insulin or oral medication also may be necessary.

What is diabetes type 1 and type 2?

There are two types of diabetes, type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. These two diabetes types have several key differences, for instance the differences in cause, symptoms, characteristics, management, also relating to whom it affects and what happens in the body because of this disease.

The easiest way to find out the differences, as well as similarities between the two, is through comparing the type 1 with type 2 diabetes, comparisons will be made across the various sections in this page.

Recommended target blood glucose level ranges for non-diabetic and diabetes type 1 and type 2

For the majority of healthy individuals, normal blood glucose level in humans is about 4 mmol/L or 72 mg/dL.3-5



What causes diabetes type 1 and type 2?

Diabetes may arise because the pancreatic beta cells, which produce insulin, are destroyed by an autoimmune disorder, giving rise to type I diabetes. Alternatively, the body cells may not respond to insulin that is being made at the proper levels (insulin resistance) resulting in type 2 diabetes, often as a result of obesity, and deficient insulin secretion.

Insulin use not only prevents hyperglycemic emergencies, but also is the best safeguard to prevent the long-term complications of diabetes by correcting fasting and postprandial hyperglycemia.

Both of these major diabetes types are believed to include different stages of disease, ranging from non-insulin-requiring to insulin-requiring for control or survival.


Recent developments on diabetes type 1 and type 2 causes from MNT news

C-section babies have higher odds of being overweight adults

Researchers from Imperial College London in the UK have found that babies born by cesarean section are more likely to be overweight or obese in adulthood than those born by vaginal delivery. These babies are more likely to develop asthma or type 1 diabetes during childhood.

Gene deficiency in males ‘could cause diabetes and liver cancer’

Scientists have discovered a genetic deficiency in males that could prompt the development of the most common type of liver cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Signs and symptoms of diabetes type 1 and type 2

There are numerous medical consequences of persistently high levels of blood glucose. The most serious involve kidney failure, eye problems (blindness) and increased risk of cardiovascular problems (e.g., heart attacks and stroke).




Tests and diagnosis of diabetes type 1 and type 2

Blood tests are used to confirm diagnosis of diabetes types 1 and 2 and prediabetes because early in the disease type 2 diabetes may have no symptoms. Testing enables health care providers to find and treat diabetes before complications occur, which can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes from developing.

Any one of the following tests can be used for diagnosis of type 1 or type 2 diabetes, not all are recommended for diagnosing all types:

  • A1C test, also called the hemoglobin A1c, HbA1c, or glycohemoglobin test
  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test
  • Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)

Another blood test, the random plasma glucose (RPG) test, is sometimes used to diagnose diabetes during a regular health checkup. If the RPG measures 200 micrograms per deciliter or above, and the individual also shows symptoms of diabetes, then a health care provider may diagnose diabetes.

Blood test levels for diagnosis of diabetes and prediabetes are outlined below.10


Comparison of tests and diagnosis for diabetes type 1 and diabetes type 2:11





Recent developments on diabetes type 1 and type 2 diagnosis from MNT news

Diabetic eye disease: How regular eye exams could save vision

According to the results of a new survey coinciding with National Diabetes Month, the majority of diabetic patients do not take regular eye examinations, even though diavets is a leading cause of vision loss in the US.

Type 2 diabetes may be diagnosed late

According to a diabetes expert who has vast experience as both a researcher and clinician, despite a high and soaring prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the US, the disease is not necessarily promptly detected.

Treatment and prevention of diabetes type 1 and type 2

Below are a list of the current methods used to treat diabetes type 1 and type 2.


Recent developments on diabetes type 1 and type 2 treatment from MNT news

FDA approves new drug for treatment of type 2 diabetes

The US Food and Drug and Administration has announced the approval of a drug called Farxiga (dapaglifozin) to help treat adults with type 2 diabetes. The tablets, in combination with diet and exercise, are said to improve control of blood sugar levels.

Artificial pancreas set to transform treatment of diabetes

Scientists are working to create an artificial pancreas that will help reduce the complications of type 1 diabetes and significantly improve the lives and life expectancy of millions of patients with the condition.

Written by Hannah Nichols


  1. Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus, American Diabetes Association, doi: 10.2337/diacare.27.2007.S5, January 2007, Accessed 28 February 2014.
  2. 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet, CDC, Accessed 28 February 2014.
  3. Guideline for Management of Postmeal Glucose, IDF, October 2007, Accessed 28 February 2014.
  4. The management of type 2 diabetes, nice, May 2008, Accessed 28 February 2014.
  5. Type 1 diabetes: diagnosis and management of type 1 diabetes in children, young people and adults, nice, July 2004, Accessed 28 February 2014.
  6. Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, What Do They Have in Common?, Tiinamaija Tuomi, American Diabetes Association, doi:10.2337/diabetes.54.suppl_2.S40, December 2005, Accessed 28 February 2014.
  7. Genetics of Diabetes, American Diabetes Association, Accessed 28 February 2014.
  8. Symptoms of Diabetes, American Diabetes Association, Accessed 28 February 2014.
  9. Complications of diabetes, American Diabetes Association, Accessed 28 February 2014.
  10. Diagnosis of Diabetes and Prediabetes, NDIC, Accessed 28 February 2014.
  11. National Diabetes Statistics, 2011, NDIC, Accessed 28 February 2014.

SOURCE  Medical News Today


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