Type 1 vs type 2 diabetes

Posted on 20 March 2014

Dr Alkesh Magan, a specialist endocrinologist who practices at Mediclinic Sandton, explains the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

What is diabetes?
Your pancreas contains beta cells, which secrete the hormone insulin. Its job is to lower the sugar in your blood stream by transferring these sugars into the body’s fat and muscle cells for conversion into energy or storage. But diabetics either produce too little insulin or have cells that don’t respond to insulin efficiently enough.

Type 1
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s beta cells are under attack from itself, and the pancreas is not able to secrete (enough) insulin. This type of diabetes is typically adolescent-onset, when your pancreas tends to throw in the proverbial towel. It accounts for about 15% of diabetes sufferers.

Type 2
Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common. It’s diagnosed when your cells are not able to react well enough to the insulin’s demand that they take up the blood sugar from the blood stream. As a result, the concentration of sugar in the blood stream can become very high (hence the synonym for diabetes: high-blood sugar). At the same time, and despite the sugar waiting to be converted into energy in your blood stream, your fat and muscles cells can start to break themselves down as they are not being ‘fed’ and go into starvation mode. You may start secreting excess sugar in your urine when your kidneys are no longer able to process it all. As a result, symptoms of diabetes can be needing to urinate often and feeling very thirsty – as well as fatigue, weight loss, increased hunger and blurred vision. At extremes, this condition is known as the potentially dangerous diabetic ketoacidosis.

Other types of diabetes
Gestational diabetes affects a small percentage of pregnant women, who develop diabetes for the first time during pregnancy. Secondary diabetes, which is diabetes secondary to or caused by pre-existing diseases or conditions, is the rarest form.

Keketso Semoko (Ma Agnes from Isidingo) has type 2 diabetes, read her story here.

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Published in Diabetes

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