The Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

In January 2017, at the age of 43, I was misdiagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. 6 months later, after several near-death visits to the emergency room, I learned I actually have Type 1 diabetes.

In case you’re not that familiar with the differences:

Type 2 diabetes means the person is resistant to the insulin they make. (Insulin regulates blood sugar.) It is usually (but not always!) associated with being overweight. Most Type 2 diabetics only take oral medications, but some also inject insulin.

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic, irreversible auto-immune disease that means the person has antibodies that attack the cells that make insulin, making insulin injections required. Many people with Type 1 diabetes have an insulin pump that continually pumps insulin into the person’s body to keep them alive. (I have that.)

Notes: Type 1 used to be referred to as “Juvenile Diabetes,” but we now know that it can be triggered at any age.

A late onset of Type 1 is also referred to as Type 1.5, or Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA).  LADA has also been referred to as “Double Diabetes” because patients often experience symptoms of both Type 1 and Type 2.

A third type of diabetes, called Gestational Diabetes, can occur during pregnancy.

I wish that Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes had completely different names. Unfortunately, when most people hear the term “diabetes,” they automatically assume Type 2.

One of the reasons is that if you know a person with diabetes, they’re most likely Type 2. About 85% of people who have diabetes are Type 2.

Diabetes stereotype
Stereotyping “diabetes”

Also, media use the term “diabetes” as a nickname for Type 2 Diabetes. With this misinformation, how would anyone know that Type 1 Diabetes is NOT caused by eating too much?  

Even the American Diabetes Association promotes a monolithic view of diabetes. They have a series of commercials that generalize diabetes as a disease associated with eating poorly.

Dr. Barnard's Program for Reversing DiabetesBefore I was correctly diagnosed with Type 1, I thought I knew a lot about “diabetes,” but I was quite ignorant. I thought back to the blog posts I had recently shared, such as:

I apologize for contributing to the stereotyping!  I will continue to help raise awareness about the differences.

3 comments

  1. I’m glad to see your post. I hope this means you’re feeling better. I only know a few people with Type-1 diabetes. Each of them opted for the pump. I wish you well as you continue this journey. Thank you for sharing and educating us.

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