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What Is Type 2 And Type 1 Diabetes?

« WeCare Blog | April 28, 2022 |

Lots of people mix up type 2 and type 1 diabetes. Even though the two types have some things in common, there are many differences. Let’s sort out the main differences once and for all.

Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes in the general population. It mostly occurs in adults, who are more than 45 years old1. but for some known and some unknown reasons we are starting to see younger adults and even children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
In type 2 diabetes the body doesn’t use insulin properly. The body’s cells first start to resist the effects of insulin. After a while, it stops producing enough insulin so that glucose doesn’t enter the body’s cells, and therefore builds up in the blood. The pancreas may be working, but the body can’t use glucose effectively. Some people living with type 2 diabetes can control their blood glucose levels with healthy eating and exercise, while others may need oral medication with or without insulin.

In type 2 diabetes, lifestyle factors appear to play a big role in its development. Risk factors include being overweight, diet, smoking, a lack of exercise, the use of some medications, and having a family member living with type 2 diabetes.2 More recent research is showing that many people can avoid being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or put their type 2 diabetes into remission through a combination of a healthier diet, activity and weight loss3

Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is typically first diagnosed in children and teenagers but can also happen later in life too.4 Here, the immune system attacks the pancreatic beta cells so that they can no longer produce insulin. Symptoms tend to develop suddenly and worsen rapidly.4 The 4 T’s are signs to look out for to help detect type 1 diabetes quickly:

  • Thirsty - are you not being able to quench the thirst?
  • Toilet - are you going to the toilet a lot?
  • Tired - are you more tired than usual?
  • Thinner - are you losing weight at a fast pace or looking thinner than usual?

People living with type 1 diabetes will have to use insulin for the rest of their life. Although research is ongoing, at present there is no way to prevent or cure type 1 diabetes. There is a higher risk of having type 1 diabetes if a family member has it, yet scientists still don’t know for sure what the cause is.2

Complications and treatments
In both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, there is an increased risk of developing complications. Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause health problems, such as heart disease, nerve damage, eye problems, and kidney disease.5

The good news is, by adjusting treatments and lifestyle habits, there’s a possibility to prevent or delay the onset of complications. There are a few other things to keep in mind. Stay alert for symptoms of skin infections or other skin disorders. Take care of your feet regularly and look for wounds or signs of changes. Also get regular eye check-ups to keep the risk of glaucoma, cataracts or other eye problems low.

Whilst many living with type 2 diabetes can manage their diabetes with tablets and a healthy lifestyle, people living with type 1 diabetes must use insulin daily. This can be either via multiple daily injections, or by wearing an insulin pump which infuses insulin based on an individual’s need. Where available some people living with type 1 diabetes benefit from having an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring system, which automatically adjusts the insulin dose to the person's sensor glucose levels.

Find support networks
Whether you are living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes or caring for someone with diabetes, connecting with others in the same situation can help ease the burden tremendously. Sharing experiences, tips and even recipes on how to handle different situations can give you the feeling of not being alone and can be really helpful in your everyday life.

Whether you are using a pump or pen, try to adjust your diabetes management to fit the life you want to live, and not the other way around! Remember, you are not a diabetic, you are a person living with diabetes doing all the things you love and want to do. Work with your diabetes healthcare team to get the most out of your treatment. Plan ahead where you can. Be positive. No goal or dream is too high!


  1. CDC. Diabetes Quick Facts. 2020. Available at: [Accessed September 2020].
  2. NIDDK. Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes. 2016. Available at: [Accessed September 2020].
  3. Hopkins MD, Taylor R, Lean MEJ. The DiRECT principles: giving Type 2 diabetes remission programmes the best chance of success. Diabet Med. 2019;36(12):1703-1704.
  4. NIDDK. Type 1 Diabetes. 2017. Available at: [Accessed September 2020].
  5. NIDDK. What is Diabetes? 2016. Available at: [Accessed September 2020].