Blog Diabetes

Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes

written by Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse Written by Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse
Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa is a MSN prepared Registered Nurse with 10 years of critical care experience in healthcare. When not practicing clinical nursing, she enjoys academic writing and is passionate about helping those affected by medical aliments live healthy lives.

Read more posts by this author.
reviewed by Dr. Katalin Karolyi Reviewed by Dr. Katalin Karolyi
Dr. Katalin Karolyi

Dr. Katalin Karolyi

Katalin Karolyi, M.D. earned her medical degree at the University of Debrecen. After completing her residency program in pathology at the Kenezy Hospital, she obtained a postdoctoral position at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Orlando, Florida.

February 12, 2021 Read Time - 6 minutes

What’s the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?

The main difference between type 1 and 2 diabetes is that with type 1 diabetes the pancreas does not produce enough or any insulin. It is also typically diagnosed in childhood.

With type 2 diabetes the pancreas may still be able to produce insulin, but the cells aren’t able to respond to it. Type 2 diabetes is typically diagnosed in obese adults and is much more common accounting for 90% of diabetes diagnoses.

Type 1 DiabetesType 2 Diabetes
Pancreas can produce insulinX
Insufficient cellular absorption of insulinX
Typically diagnosed in childhoodX
Typically diagnosed in adulthoodX
Can be treated with insulinXX
Can sometimes be treated with diabetes medication and not insulinX
Diet plays a key role in treatmentXX
Is linked to obesityX

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes affects approximately 8% of people with diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is characterized by the destruction of pancreatic beta cells responsible for producing insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas that regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. The lack of insulin causes the symptoms of type 1 diabetes. 

Your body does not make or use any insulin when you have type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetic components, immunologic, and sometimes environmental (viral) factors. It is generally accepted that genetic components are the common underlying factor. People do not inherit type 1 diabetes, but rather it is a genetic predisposition or tendency.

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Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes affects approximately 90% of adults with the disease. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance and impaired insulin secretion. The lack of insulin effect causes type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance refers to the body’s decreased sensitivity to insulin. Insulin is less effective with type 2 diabetes. 

Type 2 diabetes occurs more commonly among people 30 years and older who are obese. Type 2 diabetes is also seen in children, adolescents, and young adults with a correlating factor of obesity.

Which is Worse Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes?

It is difficult to compare which is worse between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Each is characterized differently yet manifest similarly and have similar complications when left untreated.

Perhaps type 1 is worse, in that, it affects more children and therefore, is something they have to live with for their entire life. Whereas, type 2 is usually diagnosed in adulthood, forcing adults to make lifestyle changes, something easier to ask of adults than of children.

Type 2 is often milder than type 1 diabetes, but type 2 can still cause major health complications. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes increase your risk of diabetic retinopathy (damage to blood vessels in your eyes), diabetic neuropathy (damage to your nerve endings), kidney disease, heart disease, and increase the risk of having a stroke. 

Can Diabetes Type 2 Become Type 1?

No, you cannot switch from type 1 to type 2 diabetes or from type 2 to type 1 diabetes. The mechanism of damage to the pancreatic cells are different and cannot change or fluctuate. Therefore, if you have type 2 you will never change into type 1 or vice versa. 

In some cases, a misdiagnosis between type 1 and type 2 may take place. A patient receiving a type 2 diagnosis, may actually be a type 1, but not diagnosed until adulthood.  In order to confirm the diagnosis of type 1, the healthcare provider can check antibodies that attack insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas. The test shows that 90% of people with type 1 diabetes are found to have these antibodies. 

This is not because the illness has changed, but rather an oversight from the diagnosing provider.

Which Type of Diabetes are You Born With?

Type 1 diabetes has a genetic component and those diagnosed are predisposed, meaning they have a genetic tendency to have the illness.

You are essentially born with type 1 diabetes and cannot be cured of this illness. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic illness, with lifelong treatment.

Type 1 Diabetes Treatment

Early treatment of type 1 diabetes is the most effective treatment. You will have to regularly visit the doctor when you have type 1 diabetes. Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) (sometimes called A1C) blood test is used to determine how well treatment is working.

Your goal A1C is often dependent on your age and other factors, but the American Diabetes Association recommends that A1C levels 7% or below is good glucose control.

Type 1 diabetics do not make insulin so insulin must be injected into their body several times a day in order to function properly. Injectable insulin is available in many forms and is prescribed often. Insulin injectables are available in a syringe form, pen injectable form, jet injector, insulin port, as well as an insulin pump.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.


Type 2 Diabetes Treatment

Early detection and treatment of type 2 diabetes can decrease the risk of complications. It is important to effectively treat type 2 diabetes as soon as possible. This may include tablets or insulin injection medications.

Medication is prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes. Some patients can take tablets to treat their diabetes, while other patients use injectable insulin to treat their diabetes.

Taking tablets versus injections depends on your current diabetes control, your target A1C level, how much insulin your body still makes, as well as your kidney function. While some people take both tablets and insulin injections, fast and long-acting injectables are common treatment plans. 

Some common type 2 diabetes medications are:

  • Diabeta
  • Metformin
  • Invokamet
  • Novolin R
  • Novolin N
  • Humulin R
  • Glynase
  • And many more

Diet and Exercise for Diabetes Management

Diet plays a key role in managing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Diabetics have to carefully monitor their sugar intake to ensure they do not have too low or too high blood glucose levels.

Exercise is also an important part of diabetes management, especially for type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that exercise actually makes insulin more efficient in type 2 diabetics. Exercise can also prevent heart complications and lead to weight loss in obese patients.

A diet and exercise plan should be a part of your diabetes care plan.

Get Diabetes Treatment and Management Online

You can get diabetes treatment and ongoing management from the board-certified doctors at PlushCare. Our primary care physicians can work with you to diagnose and treat your diabetes.

Online doctors can order you the necessary tests for both a type 1 or type 2 diabetes diagnosis and can prescribe necessary medications for diabetes treatment and management. Online doctors are easier to meet with for follow up appointments and can reach out digitally to ensure you’re adhering to the care plan.

Read More About Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes


PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

Mayo Clinic. Type 1 Diabetes. Accessed on February 8, 2021 at

American Diabetes Association. Type 1 Overview. Diabetes Symptoms. Accessed on February 8, 2021 at https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/type-1/symptoms

Diabetes United Kingdom. Differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Accessed on February 8, 2021 at

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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