Tag Archives: pancreas

Differences Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

30 Jan


Last November I celebrated my 10-year anniversary. 10 years of being a Type 1 Diabetic. I was diagnosed with diabetes just three days after my 13th birthday (nice belated present, eh?) and have been on a lifelong experiment ever since then.

More than three million people have Type 1 diabetes, but they are generally overwhelmed in media coverage by the nearly 23 million people other people who have Type 2 diabetes (per the American Diabetes Association). Nearly 80 million people also have pre-diabetes, which means their lifestyle choices put them at greater risk for developing the disease.┬áThe two diseases present many of the same challenges, but are radically different in what causes them and how they are treated. Here’s a VERY abbreviated explanation.

1) Type 1 Diabetes: So sometime in my early teens, my pancreas began to shut down. By the time I was diagnosed with diabetes, my body was producing no more insulin. My pancreas was essentially useless, doing nothing, and just taking up space (still is). Scientists aren’t quite sure why this happens, but they think it has something to do with genetics. At birth, I was predisposed to developing type 1 diabetes and then something in my childhood triggered the disease. When I was little I had a 105 degree fever. That could be it. My original endochronologist believes that the fever somehow got antibodies inside me to turn on the insulin-producing cells. It’s not clear, but the important thing (from my perspective anyway) is that my pancreas no longer produces any insulin.

2) Type 2 Diabetes: Unlike type 1 diabetics, the bodies of type 2 diabetics often still produce some insulin, they just don’t produce enough. In these cases, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin for the body or does not produce the insulin efficiently . That’s why some type 2 diabetics can manage (or sometimes “cure”) their disease simply through better diet and exercise. That doesn’t work in all cases, but it is true that some diabetics can alter their lifestyles to the point that their bodies make enough insulin. Many others take medication (not always insulin through syringes) to force their pancreas to make more insulin.

Those are the big differences. One type of diabetes has a pancreas that simply doesn’t work and the other has a pancreas that doesn’t work efficiently enough. They seem like small differences to most people, but to those people who suffer from the diseases, they mean the world.

Photo: Jill A. Brown