What Is The Difference Between Type 1 Vs Type 2 Diabetes — And Why Does It Matter?

The symptoms may be similar, but the differences between these two conditions are important to know.

What Is Type 1 Vs Type 2 Diabetes? Symptoms, Causes, Prevention And Treatment Park Street on Unsplash

As of the most recents studies, diabetes remained the seventh most common cause of death in the United States. And yet, there remains a great deal of confusion among the general population regarding the differences between type 1 vs. type 2 diabetes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 30 million, or one in ten, Americans have diabetes, and among them, somewhere between 90 to 95% have Type 2 Diabetes.


Additionally, they report that "84.1 million adults [in the U.S.] — more than 1 in 3 — have prediabetes. What’s more, 90% of them don’t know they have it. With prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes raises your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke."

RELATED: 6 Subtle Signs Of Diabetes You Might Miss


While both type 1 and type 2 Diabetes lead to higher than optimal blood sugar, they are distinctily different diseases, with different causes and treatments.

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease. The CDC reports that about 5% of all people diagnoses with diabetes have type 1, most of whim are children, teen and young adults.

The medical community is still unsure what causes type 1 diabetes, which means there is no known means of prevention.

It's thought that may be born with the genetic predisposition for diabetes, but an environmental trigger launches the disease process where the body attacks itself. This is damaging the pancreas to the extent that it no longer produces insulin.


Because the onset is triggered by a stressor, often an infection, it is typically an acute condition, meaning "of short duration, rapidly progressive, and in need of urgent care."

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 Diabetes is a metabolic disorder and has a gradual onset. According to the CDC, "type 2 diabetes most often develops in people over age 45, but more and more children, teens, and young adults are also developing it."

The Standard American diet (SAD), also known as the Western pattern diet (WPD), is believed to have contributed to the growing epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the U.S.

Being overweight and having chronic inflammation can lead to insulin resistance. The body still makes insulin, it just doesn’t work as efficiently and blood sugar increases.


Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include the following:

  • Having prediabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 years or older
  • Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Being physically active less than 3 times a week
  • Having a history of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Being African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native (some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are also at higher risk)

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes share the following symptoms in common:

  • Frequent urination, often at night
  • Excessive thirst
  • Sudden, unexplained weight loss
  • Excessive hunger
  • Blurry vision
  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Slowly healing sores
  • Frequent infections

People with type 1 diabetes may also experience nausea, vomiting and/or stomach pains, and their symptoms typically develop quickly, over the course of just weeks or months. People with type 2 diabetes are more likely to experience symptoms develop gradually, perhaps over the course of years.

How to test for diabetes

If your doctor suspects you may have diabetes, they will like order an A1C blood test, which measures your average blood glucose (i.e., blood sugar) level over three months.

  • A result of below 5.7% is considered normal.
  • 5.7 to 6.4% is diagnosed as having pre-diabetes, which mean increased risk for developing diabetes.
  • A result of 6.5% or above is diagnosed as diabetes.

Additional tests for diabetes include:

  • Fasting blood sugar test
  • Glucose tolerance test
  • Random blood sugar test
  • Autoantibody test
  • Ketosis urine or breath test

RELATED: The Simple Way To Own Your Diabetes And Reclaim You Life

How to prevent, treat and reverse diabetes

Type 1 diabetics rely on prescription insulin to keep their blood sugar in line.

While someone with type 1 diabetes cannot produce their own insulin, eating a whole-foods diet that is lower in carbohydrates can help maintain steady blood sugar levels that will benefit their overall, long-term health.


The good news is that studies now show type 2 diabetes is reversible!

While this doesn't mean it can be cured, as there is always a chance symptoms may return, it is possible "to reach and hold normal blood sugar levels without medication."

Here are three ways people with type 2 diabetes can turn it around and maintain normal blood sugar levels:

1. Eat to thrive

For those with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, a low-calorie diet is key to returning full health.A whole-foods, plant-based diet that is lower in carbohydrates is game-changing.

Additionally, avoiding processed foods is key for weight loss, steady blood sugar levels and overall health.

2. Get moving

Exercise is also helpful in reducing inflammation and lowering blood sugar levels on your A1C results.


It's important for anyone on diabetes-related medications to be monitored closely by their health care provider when changing diet and adding exercise. As weight comes off and blood sugar decreases, medication dosages often need to be reduced.

3. Manage your stress

Stress is inflammatory, and inflammation drives diabetes.

Our bodies are designed to handle acute stressors rather than the chronic stress most of us deal with today.

Creating a consistent stress management routine is imperative to reduce inflammation and improve your health.

4. Optimize your sleep

Sleep is the time during which our bodies heal and detoxify. Not getting enough sleep, or not sleeping well, also creates inflammation.


Therefore, shorting yourself on sleep drives blood sugar level out of balance and prevents deep healing.

Getting the proper amount of high-quality sleep supports the body to function optimally.

Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle illness. There is no need to accept decline and rely on medication.

Taking the steps to eat well, move, manage stress, and get good sleep can turn it around.

Your full health and vitality are worth the effort!

RELATED: 4 Conditions That Resemble Depression —​ But Aren't

Julie Michelson is a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach and the creator of Inspired Living with Autoimmunity™. If you are dealing with autoimmunity or chronic illness, contact her to explore how she can help you find wellness, or visit her website to schedule a discovery call.