The statistics related to diabetes in the United States are staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 29.1 million people or 9.3 percent of the population are living with diabetes. Five percent of adults that have been diagnosed with diabetes have Type 1, formerly referred to as juvenile diabetes, while the remaining 95 percent are living with Type 2 diabetes.

During National Diabetes Awareness Month, Adventist HealthCare Diabetes Educator, Michele McBride, looks at the major differences between Type 1 and 2, including their diagnoses and how they’re treated.


The major difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is that Type 1 is an autoimmune response that causes a person’s body to not make any insulin at all. Insulin injections are then necessary for the rest of the person’s life. In Type 2 diabetes, the person’s body still makes insulin, but not enough or the person is insulin resistant, which means the body is not using insulin efficiently and therefore not enough sugar is getting into the cells. This results in too much sugar remaining in the blood causing high blood sugar or hyperglycemia.

Insulin is a hormone that is essential for life and helps your body use sugar for energy. Without insulin, sugar builds up in the blood and could result in life-changing complications over time. Managing blood sugar with diet, exercise and sometimes medication and insulin is necessary for good health.


At the time of a diabetes diagnosis, a person might exhibit extreme thirst and/or hunger, excessive urination, and sometimes weight loss that is unexplained. These symptoms are true for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. These symptoms are generally vague with a gradual onset and might be ignored until the person is so sick, they seek medical attention.

When bloodwork is drawn, if a person has a fasting blood sugar greater than 126 or an A1c, the average blood sugar over the course of three months, greater than 6.5 percent they are diagnosed with diabetes. The person’s age may help determine if it’s Type 1 or Type 2, but not always. Generally Type 1 diabetes affects children and adolescence and Type 2 diabetes affects adults, but lately we’ve seen these two types cross over age groups.


Treatment for diabetes varies depending on the type. Type 1 diabetics are “insulin dependent” or require insulin injections. Type 2 can often be managed with diet and exercise, oral medications or non-insulin injectable medication or insulin.

Good nutrition and exercise are recommended for all types. Home monitoring of blood sugar is also recommended especially for anyone taking insulin.