In the United States, diabetes has nearly become a household term. In fact, more than 10% of the entire US population has been diagnosed with the disease. Most often, it is connected with growing trends of obesity and sedentary lifestyles, but not all diabetes is the same. Sometimes it doesn’t even have to do with weight at all. You may have heard of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but what do these terms mean, exactly? And, if you or a loved one suffers from it, what treatment options can help you lead a happy and fulfilling lifestyle?
What is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition that inhibits your body’s ability to produce insulin. The exact cause is unknown, but it’s generally considered to be an autoimmune condition that occurs when your immune system attacks cells in the pancreas that are responsible for producing insulin. Onset of type 1 diabetes can be sudden, and ongoing insulin treatments are required in order to live.
Characteristics of Type 1 Diabetes
- Less common than type 2 diabetes
- Body can’t produce enough insulin for survival
- Requires insulin treatments
- Affects individuals regardless of age, race, or body type
- Autoimmune disease that attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas
- Sudden onset
- Can be partly managed with healthy lifestyle
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It occurs when cells in your body become resistant to insulin. Without insulin’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, sugars build up in your bloodstream, which can lead to a variety of health complications. Type 2 diabetes often occurs in individuals who are overweight, although you don’t have to be overweight to get type 2 diabetes. The primary ways of managing type 2 diabetes involve lifestyle and diet changes, although sometimes medical intervention is necessary.
Characteristics of Type 2 Diabetes
- Most common form of diabetes
- Occurs when your body doesn’t use insulin properly
- Insulin resistance leads to build up of blood sugar
- Gradual onset, usually caused by genetics or being at an unhealthy weight or fitness level
- Can be controlled with healthy lifestyle, but sometimes medication and other treatments are necessary
Symptoms of Diabetes
Symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes overlap significantly, although there are some differences in frequency. The most common include:
- Excessive or increased hunger/thirst
- Slow-healing wounds/sores
- Frequent infections
- Blurry vision
- Frequent urination
- Dry/itchy skin
- Unexpected weight loss
- Diabetic ketoacidosis (more common for type 1)
- Dark patches in folds of skin in armpits/neck (more common for type 2)
- Numbness/pain in feet (more common for type 2)
Risk Factors of Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes
For both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, the exact cause is unknown, but — generally speaking — type 2 diabetes is preventable, whereas type 1 is not. Genetics, however, play a significant role in each case.
Risk Factors for Type 1 Diabetes
- Family history and genetics
- Environmental factors
- Presence of autoantibodies in immune system
Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes
- Inactive lifestyle
- Family history of diabetes
- Increased risk with age
- High blood pressure
- High triglycerides
- Abnormal cholesterol levels
Complications of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
The health consequences of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are largely the same, since they both cause your body to function without the benefits of insulin. Unregulated blood sugar levels can have detrimental effects on blood vessels and blood flow, which in turn cause a myriad of other serious issues throughout the body. The most common include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Damage to eyes, skin, nerves, and kidneys
- Hearing impairment
- Foot damage
- Increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Diagnosis and Treatment
Testing and Diagnosis
Diagnosis of diabetes is done primarily through the A1C test, which measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin. This test is generally able to establish your average blood sugar levels over the past few months. If the A1C test results are inconsistent, your healthcare provider may also prescribe other tests, such as a random blood sugar test, a fasting blood sugar test, or an oral glucose tolerance test.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines suggest that individuals who meet any of the following criteria be tested for diabetes:
- You are 45 years and older
- You have a body mass index (BMI) higher than 25
- You have had gestational diabetes
- You have been diagnosed with prediabetes
Treatment for Diabetes
While there is no actual cure for either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, there are several ways to treat and manage the disease for a fulfilling life. Treatment options include:
- Healthy diet – there is no diet specific for diabetes, but following the regular guidelines for healthy nutrition will help manage your diabetes. This includes focusing on lean proteins, vegetables and fruits, and eating whole grains and fiber-rich carbohydrates. It also means avoiding foods high in saturated fats and sweets. This doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself from time to time, but it should be balanced with the rest of your diet
- Active lifestyle – physical activity benefits your body in many ways, but it’s also particularly important for people with diabetes. It lowers your blood sugar, increases your sensitivity to insulin, and helps keep your weight in check. Try to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity on most days, if you are able. If not, consult with your doctor to determine a level of exercise that is appropriate for you
- Monitoring your blood sugar – monitoring your blood sugar lets you know if insulin treatments are working, helps you track your progress, and shows you how lifestyle and environmental factors affect your blood sugar levels. While traditional blood sugar meters are still the most common, they now make continuous glucose monitors (CGM) that can even be connected to a smartphone.
- Insulin therapy – required to live for people with type 1 diabetes, and also common for people with type 2
- Medications– to help regulate insulin, glucose, and other chemicals in your body that are affected by diabetes
If You Need Blood Screenings or Help Managing Diabetes, Nurse Practitioners of Florida Can Help
At Nurse Practitioners of Florida, we have a dedicated team of certified nurse practitioners who have an unwavering commitment to providing you with care and compassion. When you call any of our locations, you will be greeted by a live person who’s ready to offer acute medical care as well as preventive measures — including pneumonia vaccine. And, above everything else, you will be treated like family.