Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious, lifelong condition where your blood glucose level is too high. The two main types are type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a disease in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, resulting in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose in the blood.

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Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugars to build up in the blood. Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations.

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is a serious, lifelong condition where your blood glucose level is too high because your body can't make a hormone called insulin. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease that causes the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas to be destroyed, preventing the body from being able to produce enough insulin to adequately regulate blood glucose levels. Because type 1 diabetes causes the loss of insulin production, it therefore requires regular insulin administration either by injection or by insulin pump.

How does Type 1 Diabetes Occur?

Type 1 diabetes is caused by a fault in the body’s immune response in which the immune system mistakenly targets and kills beta cells, the cells in the pancreas responsible for producing insulin. As more insulin producing cells in the pancreas are killed off, the body can no longer control its blood glucose levels and the symptoms of diabetes begin to appear.

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What are the Risk Factors of Type 1 Diabetes?

• Family history: Anyone with a parent or sibling with type 1 diabetes has a slightly increased risk of developing the condition.

• Genetics: The presence of certain genes indicates an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

• Age

• Unhealthy diet

• Smoking

• Alcohol

What are the Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes?

• Above average thirst

• Tiredness during the day/ Fatigue

• Needing to urinate regularly

• Unexplained weight loss

• Genital itchiness

• Extreme hunger

• Mood changes

• Weakness

• Blurred vision

• Slow healing of cuts and grazes

• Nausea

How is Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosed?

If you show signs of having diabetes, your doctor may use blood or urine tests to diagnose diabetes. Your doctor should consider which type of diabetes you have as this can affect how your diabetes is treated. If the type of diabetes is unclear, your doctor may decide to carry out one or more of the following tests:

Ketone Testing

GAD autoantibodies test 

C-peptide Test


What Treatment is available for Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes requires treatment to keep blood sugar levels within a target range. Treatment includes:

• Taking several insulin injections every day or using an insulin pump.

• Monitoring blood sugar levels several times a day.

• Eating a healthy diet that spreads carbohydrate throughout the day.

• Regular physical activity or exercise. Exercise helps the body to use insulin more efficiently. It may also lower your risk for heart and blood vessel disease.

• Regular medical check-ups. You will get routine screening tests and exams to watch for signs of complications, such as eye, kidney, heart, blood vessel, and nerve diseases.

• Not smoking.

• Not drinking alcohol if you are at risk for periods of low blood sugar.

• To find out more about the treatments available for Type 1 Diabetes visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/type-1-diabetes/treatment/

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder that results in hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels) due to the body:

• Being ineffective at using the insulin it has produced; also known as resistance and/or

• Being unable to produce enough insulin

Type 2 diabetes is characterised by the body being unable to metabolise glucose (a simple sugar). This leads to high levels of blood glucose which over time may damage the organs of the body.

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In type 2 diabetes a person’s pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or their body doesn't react properly to insulin, called insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. Insulin is used by the body to manage glucose (sugar) levels in the blood and helps the body use glucose for energy.

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How does Type 2 Diabetes affect the body?

When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, the cells are not able to function properly. Other problems associated with the build-up of glucose in the blood include:

Dehydration. The build-up of sugar in the blood leads to excess glucose in the urine because the kidneys can’t deal with the high sugar levels. The sugar in the urine draws water with it, causing an increase in urination. When the kidneys lose the glucose through the urine, a large amount of water is also lost, causing dehydration.

Diabetic coma (hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic non-ketotic syndrome).When a person with type 2 diabetes becomes severely dehydrated and is not able to drink enough fluids to make up for the fluid losses, they may develop this life-threatening complication.

Damage to the body. Over time, the high glucose levels in the blood may damage the nerves and predispose a person to atherosclerosis (narrowing) of the arteries that can cause heart attack and stroke, and damage the eyes and kidneys.

What are the Risk Factors of Type 2 Diabetes?

• Being overweight or obese

• Unhealthy diet

• Physical inactivity

• Having a relative with type 2 diabetes

• High Blood Pressure

• High Cholesterol

• Smoking

• Age (as you get older the risk increases)

What are the Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes?

• Increased thirst

• Increased hunger

• Dry mouth

• Frequent urination

• Fatigue

• Unexplained weight loss

• Blurred vision

• Headaches

How is Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosed?

Type 2 diabetes is often diagnosed following blood or urine tests for something else. If you are experiencing symptoms of type 2 diabetes then you should visit your GP straight away. Your GP will then examine you and go through the different steps including:

1. Your GP will ask you to describe your symptoms in full detail.

2. Your GP will check your urine and arrange a blood test to check your blood sugar levels. It usually takes 1-2 days for results to come back.

3. If you have diabetes, your GP will then ask you to come in again so they can explain the test results and what will happen next.

To find out more about diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and further steps visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/type-2-diabetes/getting-diagnosed/

What Treatments are available for Type 2 Diabetes?

The primary aim of treating type 2 diabetes is to help control blood glucose levels, but another key aim is to help with weight loss or weight management. Keeping blood sugar levels under control is important as high sugar levels have been shown to significantly increase the risk of health problems (complications)developing later in life. Type 2 diabetes can be treated by a number of different methods, ranging from lifestyle adjustments to tablet medication and injections, through to bariatric (weight loss) surgery. Lifestyle changes are advised for everyone with type 2 diabetes; your doctor will recommend treatment alongside these changes if your blood glucose levels are too high. To find out more about type 2 diabetes treatments visit https://patient.info/health/type-2-diabetes/type-2-diabetes-treatment

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