ZocdocAnswersHow do Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes differ?

Question

How do Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes differ?

When I described some problems I've been having recently to my doctor, he said he wanted to test me for diabetes. I'm not overweight, so I'm confused. What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

Answer

While diabetes is more common in overweight people, diabetes can be a medical issue of the thin as well. In both types of the disease, the body is not creating or responding to insulin appropriately. Insulin works by helping the cells in the body to take sugar, which they use for energy, out of the blood. Without responding to insulin, the cells don't get sugar, and it stays in the blood vessels where it can cause numerous harmful side effects, such as heart disease, eye problems, nerve problems, kidney problems, and many others. Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease, meaning that your body attacks itself and stops functioning properly. This disease sometimes follows a viral infection in young people who are not overweight, and progresses as the pancreas (the part of the body that makes insulin among other things) is attacked until all of the insulin producing cells are destroyed. These people need replacement insulin for the remainder of their life. Type II diabetes is better described as insulin insensitivity, where the body has worked so hard making extra insulin to handle an unhealthy diet for so long, that the cells making insulin finally wear out. Over time, the body can stop responding to insulin the right way, somewhat like how we respond to caffeine that we get used to. You can get type II diabetes as a thin, healthy person, but it is more common among the overweight or obese. Please continue to follow up with your doctor, as diabetes can be managed, but requires long term care.

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