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Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes? Understanding the Differences

What’s your type? That age-old dating question takes on a whole new meaning when you have diabetes.

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes have different causes. Type 1 is more often genetic. Being overweight is the main risk factor for type 2. However, both types involve problems with the hormone insulin.

Insulin helps your body use glucose for energy. Because people with diabetes have problems making or using insulin, high levels of glucose can build up in the blood. This can damage your nerves, eyes, heart, and other organs. Healthy eating, exercise, and checking your blood glucose are the cornerstones of treatment, no matter what your type.

Type 1: The Body Turns Against Itself

About 5 percent of people with diabetes have type 1. You can be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at any age. However, most new cases develop in children, teens, or young adults.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when beta cells in the pancreas fail to do their job — produce insulin. Doctors believe the body’s immune system attacks the beta cells, though they’re not sure why. A virus or other infection may trigger the condition in people whose genes place them at risk.

Once beta cells are gone, they don’t grow back. If you have type 1 diabetes, you must take insulin to survive. Eating healthy, balanced meals at regular intervals also keeps blood glucose steady. Regular blood tests and doctor’s appointments make sure you’re on the right track.


Type 2: A Growing Threat

It was once called adult-onset diabetes. Now type 2 is increasingly diagnosed at a younger age, notes the journal Health Affairs. Today about 95 percent of the estimated 25.8 million Americans with diabetes have type 2.

Unlike people with type 1, those with type 2 still produce some insulin. However, they may not make enough. In addition, their bodies usually have trouble using the insulin they do have.

Most people who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. An inactive lifestyle, family history of diabetes, and genes also play a role.

Changing your diet and exercising more often help control type 2 diabetes. Oral medicine, and in some cases, insulin and other injectables, are also used to keep your blood glucose in check.

Check out your local Rite Aid to find the diabetes supplies you need and talk to your Rite Aid Pharmacist.



“Causes of Diabetes.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

“Confronting the Urgent Challenge of Diabetes: An Overview.” J.E. Fradkin. Health Affairs. Vol. 31, no.1, pp. 12–19.

“Diabetes.” J.M. Torpy. The Journal of the American Medical Association. Vol. 305, no. 24, p. 2592.

“Diabetes, Type 1.” National Institutes of Health.

“Diabetes, Type 2.” National Institutes of Health.

“Facts About Type 1.” American Diabetes Association.

“Facts About Type 2.” American Diabetes Association.

National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 2011. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Type 1 diabetes.” PubMed Health.

“Type 2 diabetes.” PubMed Health.

“What I need to know about Gestational Diabetes.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.