What’s the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

We often hear about the dangers of Type 2 diabetes. But what’s there to know about Type 1 diabetes?

“Type 1 is an autoimmune disease. Antibodies attack the pancreas, and it gets knocked out and can’t produce insulin,” explains Dr. Jerome Tolbert, the medical director for outreach at Beth Israel Medical Center’s Gerald J. Friedman Diabetes Institute. “People with Type 1 diabetes have to take insulin to live. It’s a lifelong thing they have to do everyday.”

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, occurs when the body resists insulin, often developing as a result of poor lifestyle habits. Type 1 was once called juvenile diabetes because of its tendency to affect children and teens. Its cause remains unknown, and there are no indicators of who might be at risk of developing the disease.

Tolbert stresses that the condition needs full commitment from the patient and a support team of doctors, family and staff at the child’s school. But the ailment can be managed.

“It is intense and quite stressful, but there’s a lot that can be done,” Tolbert says. “We have lots of tools and excellent insulin delivery.”

The importance of checkups

If a Type 1 diabetic’s blood sugar levels aren’t kept in check, it can lead to complications like vision issues and high cholesterol.

“Complications are very common,” says Tolbert. “But they can be prevented if blood sugar levels are monitored several times a day and patients get a three-month checkup with their doctors. It is a really serious condition and people need to understand that.”


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