What You Need to Know About the Different Types of Diabetes

There are approximately 29.1 million people in the US with diabetes, but what is it?

Diabetes occurs when blood glucose (or blood sugar) is too high. The pancreas makes a hormone called insulin and with the assistance of insulin, your blood carries glucose throughout your body to give it energy. In some people, they don’t produce enough insulin or the insulin does not work in the way it should.  Glucose then stays in your blood instead of going to the areas in your body that need it for energy. As a result, blood glucose levels increase and when they get too high it can cause diabetes or prediabetes.

The diabetes difference

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that impacts less than 5% of those with diagnosed diabetes. In Type 1, the immune system destroys the cells that release insulin, eventually leading to the complete inability to produce insulin in the body. Type 1 generally manifests at a young age and lasts a lifetime.

Type 2 diabetes has multiple contributing factors including genetics and lifestyle factors such as obesity and inactivity. The disease generally arises during adulthood and can often times be reversed or controlled through diet and exercise. 90-95% of those with diagnosed diabetes have Type 2.


Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes share similar symptoms, however those with Type 2 diabetes may not have symptoms prior to diagnosis and the symptoms may gradually onset. Those with Type 1 diabetes generally seek medical attention due to their symptoms and then are diagnosed with diabetes. Symptoms of diabetes may include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Hunger
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Weight loss
  • Slow healing sores
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Tingling sensation in feet
  • Blurred vision


For those diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, treatment includes routine, often four times per day, insulin injections and blood glucose monitoring. A healthy, low cholesterol diet and plenty of exercise play a role in diabetes management and maintaining overall health. As of right now there is no way to prevent or cure Type 1 diabetes.

The treatment of Type 2 diabetes starts with modifications to diet and lifestyle. A healthy, low fat and low cholesterol diet coupled with regular exercise can often reverse the onset of Type 2 diabetes. In some cases, oral medications are necessary to stimulate insulin production in the pancreas. In rare instances, some individuals with Type 2 diabetes will also need insulin.

Living with diabetes

Diabetes is a demanding disease and some people struggle with the daily treatment needs and maintenance requirements. Diabetes can be stressful and those diagnosed with it frequently worry about complications in the future.

There are a variety of diabetic community groups that lend emotional support to those living with diabetes. Talking with others in similar situations can provide encouragement and compassion.

Quality of life is very important to those living with diabetes. Just as diabetes can affect your quality of life, your quality of life can affect your diabetes.  It is important to maintain a positive and good quality of life, which in turn provides more energy to manage and care for the disease. Some aspects of diabetes that may impact quality of life include:

  • The continuous demands of diabetic care including eating carefully, exercising, monitoring blood glucose, administering insulin injections, and scheduling and planning around the demands of the disease.
  • Symptoms of low or very high blood glucose.
  • Fears and anxiety regarding the reality of diabetic complications.

While living with diabetes is demanding, many people live long and healthful lives. At Northwest Primary Care we offer a specialized diabetes management program that is designed to meet your care needs and to provide you with the proper tools to manage your condition.