Health Care

Distinguishing Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

A Woman Tests Her Glucose Levels with a Finger Medical Device

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About 34 million Americans are living with Diabetes mellitus. That means there’s a high likelihood you may know someone who has it.

“Diabetes mellitus occurs when your body is unable to take up sugar (glucose) into its cells and use it for energy, resulting in a buildup of extra sugar in your bloodstream,” says Frederick Lim, MD, an endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism specialist at AdventHealth Zephyrhills. “Uncontrolled diabetes mellitus can cause numerous problems for your body’s organs and tissues — including your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.”

There are two main types of diabetes mellitus: Type 1 and Type 2. We’ll walk you through the key differences between them and explain treatment options.

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

Type 1 diabetes mellitus is an autoimmune disease. It develops rapidly and having it means your body’s pancreas doesn’t make the insulin your body needs to get glucose from your bloodstream to your body’s cells. So, it’s critical to manage your insulin therapy and diet closely.

While it can be diagnosed at any age, the onset is especially common in young children and teens. Insulin is needed to help regulate your glucose levels between meals, and fast-acting insulin works to regulate it after meals.

Symptoms can be severe and even life-threatening. Watch for these signs, and if you notice them, talk to your primary care doctor as soon as you can:

  • Bed-wetting in children who’ve never wet the bed before
  • Blurred vision
  • Excessive thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Mood changes and irritability
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Weakness and fatigue

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is not an autoimmune disease and develops slowly over time. It’s most commonly diagnosed in adulthood but can occur at any age. Type 2 Diabetes mellitus accounts for the majority of people on the diabetes spectrum and means your body is insulin-resistant, which means your pancreas still makes insulin, but your cells no longer respond the way they should. Your pancreas increases insulin production, trying to force your cells to work.

Common symptoms of Type 2 diabetes include blurry vision, dry mouth, extreme thirst and hunger, fatigue, frequent urination, headaches and unexplained weight loss.

You may be at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Are over age 45
  • Are overweight
  • Don’t get enough physical activity
  • Have a parent, sister or brother with Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Have been diagnosed as prediabetic.
  • Have had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)

Navigating Your Diagnosis

If you or someone close to you has recently been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, it may feel overwhelming at first. This is perfectly normal, but there is hope. Living with diabetes mellitus is manageable. With lifestyle changes and sometimes medication, you can keep your Diabetes mellitus under control.

Approximately 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes mellitus each year, and many are speaking out about their experiences. For example, award-winning actress Halle Berry was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes mellitus in her early 20s while filming a movie, and singing-songwriter Nick Jonas was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic at age 13. Both celebrities have spoken publicly about their condition, the life changes they’ve made and how they’ve managed their diagnoses as they lead busy lives.

Similarly, many celebrities also deal with Type 2 diabetes mellitus, including actors Tom Hanks and James Earl Jones, who have since spoken about the importance of paying closer attention to their health amidst learning more about their diagnoses.

“Usually, with low blood sugar, it's easy to notice,” said Jones. “With high blood sugar, it's not as easy, and that can be the most dangerous aspect of Type 2 diabetes [mellitus].” But even with diabetes mellitus, Jones is dedicated to the career he loves. In 2018, he shared, “I love working and, at my age, I still love being able to put in eight shows a week on a play or handle a long schedule if I’m doing film or television. I didn’t want that to stop, so I had to take responsibility for my condition.”

Taking responsibility is truly key. Learning about your options and making necessary choices can help you live your fullest life, even amidst a diabetes mellitus diagnosis.

Treatment Options for Diabetes

Your primary care physician will serve as your centralized care manager with your endocrinologist (the specialist who treats diabetes mellitus), a registered dietitian or nutritionist, eye doctor, foot doctor, dentist, diabetes educator and pharmacist. Failing to treat diabetes mellitus of any type can cause blindness, stroke, heart disease, nerve damage, amputations of limbs and/or kidney failure.

No matter which type of diabetes mellitus you may have, the tests used to diagnose diabetes mellitus are:

  • Oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTT) compare your blood sugar before and after you drink a sugary solution. A result of 140 or above suggests you have prediabetes. A result over 200 indicates you have diabetes mellitus.
  • A1C (A-One-C) tests measure your average blood sugar over the past two to three months. Prediabetes is indicated if your result is over 5.7, and a result of over 6.5 shows diabetes mellitus.
  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) tests measure your blood sugar after you’ve fasted for at least eight hours. A result over 100 shows prediabetes, and a result over 126 indicates diabetes mellitus.

Diabetes Management for the Whole You

Whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes mellitus, know that it’s quite treatable when managed properly and consistently. Learning as much as you can about your type of diabetes gives you more control over the illness and can allow for medical treatment so you can work to prevent long-term complications.

To protect your whole health, partner with our caring team at AdventHealth Zephyrhills for advanced diabetes mellitus care. Learn more about how we can help you manage your diabetes mellitus and live a full life.

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