Diabetes Network News | Published October 30, 2010

Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes: What You Should Know

More than 23 million people in the United States live with diabetes. And, what's more alarming, about six million people (both adults and children) are estimated to have undiagnosed diabetes. Since November is National Diabetes Month, it's a good time to learn more about the disease that could affect you or a loved one.

Let’s begin with learning the difference between both types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes used to be referred to as juvenile diabetes or insulin dependent diabetes since it usually affects children and young adults and they must inject insulin. With type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Because people with type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin, they have to use insulin injections to control their blood sugar. Without insulin, too much glucose stays in the blood and this can be dangerous.

The most common form of diabetes is type 2 diabetes. Between 90-95% of those diagnosed with diabetes, have type 2. Unlike people diagnosed with diabetes type 1, people with type 2 produce insulin. However, their body either does not produce enough insulin, or the insulin being made is not being used properly. This is called insulin-resistance. Type 2 diabetes used to be known as adult- onset or non-insulin dependent diabetes. These terms are no longer used because there is an increasing number of children who get type 2 diabetes and some people with type 2 diabetes will eventually need to take insulin.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes include: being very thirsty; urinating often; feeling very hungry or tired; losing weight without trying; having dry, itchy skin; losing the feeling in your feet (or having tingling in your feet) and experiencing blurry eyesight. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be about the same as type 1 if blood glucose levels run high and a blood test can determine which type of diabetes is present. Type 1 diabetes comes on suddenly, over a matter of days or weeks and the person appears very ill. On the other hand, type 2 diabetes may take months or even years until the diagnosis is made. Sometimes people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes may have had elevated blood sugars for 8-10 years, but not high enough to display the symptoms listed above.

While some lifestyle choices can help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. If diabetes runs in your family, you will want to take precautions to try to prevent getting diabetes. Because there is a link between obesity and type 2 diabetes, it is advised to maintain a healthy weight. A healthy diet and exercise also help to prevent the condition known as impaired glucose tolerance or pre diabetes. Pre-diabetes is when a person’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes.

If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, there are ways to limit the effects of diabetes on your body. Exercise and healthy eating are the best ways to help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes. Taking medication if ordered by your physician and monitoring blood glucose regularly is also important to live a healthy life and prevent complications. Those with diabetes are also advised to not smoke or quit smoking. Smoking especially increases the risk for heart disease for those with diabetes.

If you or a loved one thinks that you are at risk to have diabetes, talk to you doctor and get tested. A simple blood test can determine if you have diabetes. Know what you can do to prevent getting type 2 diabetes and how you can assist your friends or family members in coping with this disease.
On Monday, November 1, Mount Nittany Medical Center is teaming up with Penn State Institute for Diabetes and Obesity, Penn State Extension Office and People Center’d on Diabetes to offer free diabetes screening, a healthy cooking demonstration and an education program by Melinda Maryniuk of Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, Massachusetts. The public is invited and encouraged to attend. A healthy walk will also be held on November 4. For more details, visit www.mountnittany.org or call 231.7095.
Amy Leffard, RN, is the diabetes educator at Mount Nittany Medical Center. The Medical Center hosts diabetes education and support groups regularly. For more information, go to www.mountnittany.org