What Is the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?

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You’ve no doubt heard diabetes referred to as either type 1 or type 2, but you may not know exactly what this means. We’re here to help. In our debut “Healthy Living With Diabetes” video from Certified Diabetes Educator and Registered Dietitian Alison Massey, learn the basics of these two conditions and how they differ from one another.

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What is the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?

I’m Alison Massey, Registered Dietician, Certified Diabetes Educator and Contributor to Diabetes Self-Management Magazine.

Today I am going to answer the most common question people ask me during their very first visit.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a hormone condition. It involves the hormone “insulin”. Insulin, I always tell my clients, think of it like a key. It’s job is to really open the cells so the blood glucose can be regulated and stored.

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

With Type 1 diabetes, these individuals don’t make any of the hormone insulin. It’s an auto-immune form of the disease. Meaning, something’s triggered the body to destroy the beta cells where insulin is made. These individuals need to take the medication insulin from day 1 of their diagnosis for the rest of their life to really manage their diabetes. It’s normally diagnosed at a younger age, under the age of 35. Although sometimes we do see type 1 diabetes diagnosed in older individuals.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is much more common. Most people that have diabetes have type 2 diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, these individuals are making some of the hormone insulin. They may not be making quite enough. The other thing that is happening often, is that the body is not using the hormone that their making, very well. And we call that “Insulin Resistance”. Type 2 diabetes can be diagnosed, really at any age, in childhood, teen years, and or adulthood. With type 2 diabetes, there’s various ways to manage the disease. Lifestyle, of course, comes into play. I mean it, there’s also a lot of diabetes medications out there. Oral medications, injectable medications that are not insulin that lower blood sugar. And then, if insulin production is low, individuals with type 2 diabetes, might also take insulin as well.

If you have more questions on the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Check out the resources on and subscribe to Diabetes Self-Management Magazine.

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