Betsy T2 and Abbi T1 at the 2014 Oregon Tour de Cure ride for Diabetes

I get asked all the time, so I want to use a short blog post to try to explain the difference and impact of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes.

They’re vastly different.

Type 1 Diabetes (T1) is an autoimmune disease.  The body attacks and kills the beta cells that are made in the pancreas.  Beta cells produce insulin.  A T1 HAS to take insulin or they die.  It’s the ‘bad’ diabetes, the one they also call ‘juvenile’.  No matter what they call it — it’s deadly without modern medicine.  It’s important to note that insulin is NOT a cure, it’s simply a medicine that keeps our T1’s alive until we find the cure.  One other note? Eating or not eating sugar/carbs/sweets is part of their own personal care routine to balance blood glucose and insulin.  Very personal, very necessary and — well — diet changes simply aren’t going to solve the fact that they have an autoimmune disease and their pancreas doesn’t work.

Type 2 Diabetes (T2) is also called insulin resistance.  It’s a metabolic disorder. You may have heard it called ‘adult onset’.  We produce insulin, but our bodies can’t use it very well. It’s the most common form of diabetes.  It’s largely (not exclusively for those of you who want to bite my head off!) a lifestyle disease.  Years of poor/less-than-ideal food choices and lack of activity is commonly what has propelled most folks into T2.  Genetics, pancreatic injury and other illness can certainly play into the development and severity of T2.  The protocol for managing T2 is lifestyle changes, oral meds and injectable insulin. Diet and exercise are scientifically proven and important components in the successful management of T2.

There is a small cluster of other diabetes illnesses that you may have heard of as well such as gestational diabetes, T1.5 and monogenic diabetes.

Here are some basic statistics to help put this monster (and growing…) disease into perspective…

1.25 million Americans are T1.

29.1 million Americans are T2.

9.3% of the population has diabetes.

It’s the 7th leading cause of death.

1 in 11 of us have diabetes.

$245 billion is the ANNUAL cost for caring for those with diabetes.

1 in 5 healthcare dollars is spent caring for those with diabetes, while 1 in 3 medicare dollars is spent caring for those with diabetes.

If you want more information about anything related to T1/T2 or the costs/social ramifications check out http://www.diabetes.org

These numbers are all climbing – FAST! – in the wrong direction. Research dollars are not even close to keeping pace with the growth and impact of these disease.  Research for diabetes is critically ‘under funded’.

While I’m not sure if I know the exact words we should be using to discuss this issue I keep hearing the docs and health care folks I have the opportunity to interact with use words epidemic, staggering, out-of-control.

Given what I am learning about both major forms of diabetes, the people afflicted and the sky rocketing costs for care — those words seem sadly correct.

One of my personal missions in this life to see if I can’t work to get those numbers to start climbing faster in the RIGHT direction.  Or at least slow it down and get it turned and running in a better direction.

What other questions do you have about the difference between T1 and T2? 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.