MANAGING CHRONIC ILLNESS: DIABETES

Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease that develops when the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that lets sugar (glucose) move from the blood into the body's cells, where it can be used for energy or stored for later use. If sugar cannot move from the blood into the cells, the person's blood sugar rises above a safe level and the cells cannot function properly. Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, although it typically develops in children and young adults, usually before the age of 30. Because of this, type 1 diabetes used to be called juvenile diabetes. It has also been called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) because insulin injections must be taken daily.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually develop quickly, over a few hours or a few days. Often symptoms are first noticed after an illness, such as the flu. Early warning signs of diabetes that are often overlooked include: frequent urination, extreme thirst, increased hunger (possibly), and weight loss. As blood sugar levels increase, more noticeable symptoms may develop, including blurred vision; drowsiness; fast and shallow breathing; a strong, fruity breath odor; loss of appetite; abdominal pain; and vomiting. Treatment for type 1 diabetes focuses on keeping the person's blood sugar level as close to normal as possible. This is done by eating a balanced diet, taking insulin injections, and getting regular exercise.

Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong disease that affects the way your body uses food for energy. The disease develops when the cells of the body become resistant to insulin or when the pancreas cannot make enough insulin, which causes high blood sugar. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body's cells get needed energy from sugar. When insulin is not able to do its job, too much sugar builds up in your blood. Over time, this extra sugar in your blood can lead to problems with your eyes, heart, blood vessels, nerves, and kidneys. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes. People who develop type 2 diabetes often are overweight and not physically active. It is most common in people who are older than 40 but is becoming more common in children. Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes, or non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM).

Common symptoms of Type 2 diabetes are the same as those for Type 1: increased thirst, frequent urination, increased hunger, unusual weight loss, and extreme fatigue. But in type 2 diabetes, blood sugar levels rise so slowly that a person usually does not have symptoms and may have the disease for many years before being diagnosed with it. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or at least delayed if a person maintains a healthy body weight and exercises regularly. Treatment focuses on keeping blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure at safe levels. A balanced diet and regular exercise are effective for many people, but some may need one or more medicines, including insulin, to help control blood sugar levels.