Type 1 diabetes results from an autoimmune reaction and usually appears in adolescents and young adults. Type 2 diabetes develops over the course of many years. Risk factors include excess weight and a lack of exercise.

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Type 1 and type 2 diabetes may have similar names, but they’re different diseases with unique causes.

The key difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is that type 1 is believed to be caused by an autoimmune reaction and develops early in life. Type 2 diabetes develops over the course of many years and is related to lifestyle factors such as being inactive and carrying excess weight. It’s usually diagnosed in adults.

Risk factors for type 1 diabetes are not as clear, but family history may play a role.

Causes of type 1 diabetes

The body’s immune system is responsible for fighting off foreign invaders, such as harmful viruses and bacteria.

Type 1 diabetes is believed to be caused by an autoimmune reaction. In people with type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakes the body’s own healthy cells for foreign invaders.

The immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. After these beta cells are destroyed, the body is unable to produce insulin.

Researchers don’t know why the immune system sometimes attacks the body’s own cells. It may have something to do with genetic and environmental factors, such as exposure to viruses.

Research into autoimmune diseases is ongoing. Diet and lifestyle habits do not cause type 1 diabetes.

Causes of type 2 diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes have insulin resistance. The body still produces insulin, but it’s unable to use it effectively.

Researchers aren’t sure why some people become insulin resistant and others don’t, but several lifestyle factors may contribute, including being inactive and carrying excess weight.

Other genetic and environmental factors may also play a role. When you develop type 2 diabetes, your pancreas will try to compensate by producing more insulin. Because your body is unable to effectively use insulin, glucose accumulates in your bloodstream.

There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.

Both types of diabetes are chronic diseases that affect the way your body regulates blood sugar or glucose. Glucose is the fuel that feeds your body’s cells, but to enter your cells it needs a key. Insulin is that key.

People with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin. You can think of it as not having a key.

People with type 2 diabetes don’t respond to insulin as well as they should and later in the disease often don’t make enough insulin. You can think of it as having a broken key.

Both types of diabetes can lead to chronically high blood sugar levels. That increases the risk of diabetes complications.

Risk factors for type 1 diabetes are less clear than risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

Known risk factors include:

  • Family history: People with a parent or sibling with type 1 diabetes have a higher risk of developing it themselves.
  • Age: Type 1 diabetes can appear at any age, but it’s most common among children and adolescents.

Type 2 diabetes risk factors

You’re at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you:

If not managed, type 1 and type 2 diabetes can lead to symptoms such as:

People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes may also experience irritability, mood changes, and unintentional weight loss.

Diabetes and numbness in hands and feet

People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes may experience numbness and tingling in their hands or feet. Good glucose management significantly reduces the risk of developing numbness and tingling in someone with type 1 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

Although many of the symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are similar, they present in very different ways.

Many people with type 2 diabetes won’t have symptoms for many years, and their symptoms often develop slowly over a long period of time.

Some people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms at all and don’t discover they have the condition until complications arise.

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes develop quickly, typically over the course of several weeks.

Once known as juvenile diabetes, this type usually develops in childhood or adolescence. But it’s possible to develop type 1 diabetes later in life.

There’s currently no cure for type 1 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin, so it must be regularly taken, and blood sugar levels must be regularly checked.

Some people take injections into soft tissue, such as the stomach, arm, or buttocks, several times a day. Other people use insulin pumps. Insulin pumps supply a steady amount of insulin into the body through a small tube.

Blood sugar testing is an essential part of managing type 1 diabetes because blood sugar levels can go up and down quickly.

Type 2 diabetes can be managed and even prevented with diet and exercise, but many people need extra support. If lifestyle changes aren’t enough, your doctor may prescribe medications that help your body use insulin more effectively.

Monitoring your blood sugar is an essential part of type 2 diabetes management, too. It’s the only way to know whether you’re meeting your target levels.

Your doctor may recommend testing your blood sugar occasionally or more frequently. If your blood sugar levels are high, your doctor may recommend insulin injections.

Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented.

It may be possible to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes through these lifestyle changes, such as:

Even if you’re unable to prevent the disease, careful monitoring can get your blood sugar levels back to standard and prevent the development of severe complications.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 37.3 million people in the United States have diabetes. That’s slightly more than 1 in 11 people.

The CDC estimates that 8.5 million people are living with undiagnosed diabetes. That’s about 3.4 percent of all U.S. adults.

The percentage of people with diabetes increases with age. Among those 65 years old and older, the rate reaches 29.2 percent.

Are men more likely to get diabetes?

Men and women get diabetes at roughly the same rate.

But prevalence rates are higher among certain races and ethnicities in the United States.

Statistics show that diabetes occurs more frequently among historically marginalized populations in the United States.

Research suggests that this may be due in part to environmental factors, such as the history of discriminatory housing and lending policies in the United States.

Researchers posit that these policies resulted in racially and ethnically segregated neighborhoods that have inadequate access to healthy foods, insufficient health educational resources, and higher rates of obesity—a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

American Indian and Alaska Native adults are almost three times more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes.

For both men and women, diabetes diagnoses are highest among American Indians and Alaska Natives, non-Hispanic blacks, and people of Hispanic origin.

Prevalence rates are higher for Hispanic Americans of Mexican or Puerto Rican descent than they are for those of Central and South American or Cuban descent.

Among non-Hispanic Asian Americans, people with Asian Indian and Filipino ancestry have higher rates of diabetes than people with Chinese or other Asian ancestries.

How common is type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2.

About 5 to 10 percent of people with diabetes have type 1. It usually develops in children, teens, and young adults — but can happen at any age.

How common is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1, and 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2.

Nutritional management and managing your blood sugar are key to living with diabetes.

If you have type 1 diabetes, work with your doctor to identify how much insulin you may need to inject after eating certain types of food.

For example, certain carbohydrates can cause blood sugar levels to quickly increase in people with type 1 diabetes. You’ll need to counteract this by taking insulin, but you’ll need to know how much insulin to take. Learn more about type 1 diabetes and diet.

People with type 2 diabetes need to focus on healthy eating.

Weight loss is often a part of type 2 diabetes treatment plans. A doctor or nutritionist may recommend a low-calorie meal plan. This could mean reducing your consumption of animal fats and junk food.

Typically, people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes are recommended to reduce their consumption of processed foods, trans fat, sugary drinks, and alcohol.

People with diabetes may need to try different diets and nutritional plans to find a plan that works for their health, lifestyle, and budget.

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