Type 1 verses Type 2 Diabetes – What the Media Overlooks

With the increased attention in the media to diabetes in North America, sometimes there is confusion when the different Types of diabetes are not fully discussed.   What is diabetes? Diabetes is a group of conditions in which glucose (sugars) levels are abnormally high. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas stops making enough insulin, which is needed for proper metabolism of glucose in the body.   In this discussion, an overview of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes will be explored. This will include symptoms of the diseases, next steps to take if the symptoms become evident, and possible complications.   Type 1 Diabetes:   What is it? Type 1 diabetes or Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM) most often develops in children and young adults. This does not mean, however, that adults don’t or can’t develop Type 1 diabetes. In people with Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas is not able to produce insulin because the body’s immune system destroyed the insulin-producing cells. Type 1 diabetes is an irreversible disease and can have serious psychological implications for the individual who is diagnosed.   Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes: The symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes include:

  • increased urination
  • increased consumption of liquids. You constantly feel thirsty, it’s as if you just can’t quench your thirst, which ultimately leads to the increase in urination.
  • extreme hunger
  • extreme fatigue and irritability
  • upset stomach, possibly to the point of physical illness or vomiting
  • dramatic loss of weight without dieting. The word dramatic is used here because it’s often as substantial as 20 pounds in a 1-week period
  • changes in vision; often times vision becomes blurry
  • numbness or lack of sensation in your feet

  What do you do if you experience these symptoms? The first thing you should do, when these symptoms are experienced, is to make an appointment, as soon as possible, to see your doctor. Inform your doctor of your symptoms and any other symptoms you feel are unusual for you. Diabetes is usually diagnosed through a series of tests that are preformed at lease twice. These tests include a random blood sugar test, a hemoglobin (A1C) test, and a fasting blood sugar test. With all of these tests there are numerical blood sugar levels that indicate what stage of diabetes you are in.   Possible Complications: There are certain complications that can result when Type 1 diabetes is not treated. These include:

  • increased heart attack risk
  • eye problems, including blindness
  • nerve pain
  • infections on the skin, especially the feet, that could require amputation if serious enough
  • kidney damage
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • increased amount of urinary tract infections and yeast infections

It should be noted that these complications are more common in individuals who do not manage their diabetes; meaning their blood sugars are not well controlled.   After the initial diagnosis you can feel overwhelmed. Type 1 diabetes requires the use of insulin, which can be through injections or an insulin pump. It may take a few months to get blood sugars within well-controlled levels. You will have to learn to evaluate what you eat, how active you are and how to determine the correct amount of insulin to administer. Your doctor can help you find many of the resources that are available to you. Your friends and family can help you learn to deal with your concerns and new care routines. Or you may want to go to a therapist or counselor who has experience with diabetes. You can also find support groups for people in your age group who have Type 1 diabetes. Support groups can often be helpful when you are first diagnosed.   It’s important to note, DON’T feel defeated. You will have this condition for the rest of your life, but diabetes is manageable with work and determination. Keep active and stay healthy. Many people live normal healthy lives with Type 1 diabetes.   Type 2 Diabetes:   What is it? Type 2 diabetes or Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM) is the most common type of diabetes. It affects 90% to 95% of the 26 million Americans with diabetes. In a person diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, the production of some insulin may still occur, but the body cells and tissues cannot metabolize glucose efficiently because the cells are resistant to the insulin. Often, half of the people with diabetes don’t know they have Type 2 diabetes because their symptoms often develop gradually and are hard to identify at first.   You are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes if it runs in your family; if you are African American; if you are over the age of 45; and if you are inactive and overweight. Often if you loose weight, exercise, and/or take oral medications, most people with Type 2 diabetes can overcome their resistance to insulin. Even so, some people with Type 2 diabetes may require daily insulin injections.   Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes: Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes may include many of the Type 1 symptoms (listed above) as well as:

  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling/numbness in hands and feet
  • Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections

  What do you do if you experience these symptoms? The first thing you should do is make an appointment to see your doctor. Similar to Type 1 diabetes, you will be given the random blood sugar test, a hemoglobin (A1C) test, and a fasting blood sugar test.  To fully distinguish between the Types of diabetes (1 or 2) your doctor may complete other tests.   Possible Complications: There are certain complications that can occur with Type 2 diabetes (especially if left untreated). These Include:

  • heart and blood vessel damage
  • nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • kidney damage (nephropathy)
  • eye damage
  • foot damage
  • skin and Mouth Conditions
  • osteoporosis
  • increased urinary tract infections and yeast infections

Type 2 diabetes in North America has increased substantially. I am sure if it does not affect you personally you are likely to know someone who has diabetes. As mentioned earlier, there are many resources available to support you to live, cope, and manage diabetes. If your doctor’s office does not have a therapist or counselor on staff, ask for a referral. Allow yourself the time to process this new diagnosis and learn to make life adjustments. This is important and can be helpful as you move forward on the path to improved health.