What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Diabetes tests only take a few moments and could identify the condition early on. Credit: Adobe Stock

Nearly 1,500 people in Jersey could be living with diabetes without knowing it, medical experts have warned.

The condition causes blood sugar levels to rise, with two types stemming from different causes.

Around 4,500 Jersey residents have been diagnosed with diabetes - a higher proportion than the UK's national average.

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition where the body's immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin, which controls blood glucose.

Patients with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin supplements every day to keep blood glucose levels in check.

Type 1 diabetes is not linked with age or being overweight, which are factors linked to type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type, affecting around 90% of people with diabetes in Britain.

The condition means someone's body does not produce insulin or it does not react to insulin properly.

  • Dr Karen Kyd, a GP and wife of Jersey's Lieutenant Governor, is the patron of Diabetes Jersey

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes can develop in a matter of days or weeks, while many people with type 2 diabetes go years without realising as the early symptoms tend to be general or barely show at all.

The symptoms include:

  • Feeling thirsty

  • Peeing more often than usual, especially overnight

  • Feeling tired

  • Weight or muscle loss

  • Itchy genitals or thrush

  • Blurred vision

Are you only at risk of developing diabetes if you are overweight?

While being overweight and other lifestyle factors can put you at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, it is not the only consideration.

In fact, someone's lifestyle does not play any part in whether they develop type 1 diabetes.

Pharmacist Nima Rad told ITV News: "There's a big stigma around diabetes in that people think it's perhaps if you're overweight or don't exercise - they are very important factors - but there's also a family history element, there are other things that play a part.

"I think it's very important that everyone plays an active role in getting tested and making sure they are aware that it's something anyone could be at risk of."

  • Pharmacist Nima Rad explains there are a number of different factors that lead to diabetes

Does diabetes run in the family?

Experts are unsure of exactly how Type 1 diabetes is caused but genetics are thought to play a part. It is not linked to lifestyle or diet choices.

While some people can be at increased risk if they have a family history of the condition, researchers believe other factors such as viruses may be a factor.

Type 2 diabetes mostly affects people over 25 and can often be linked to family history. Risk factors include lifestyle choices, diet and ethnicity.

What is it like living with diabetes?

Historically, people with diabetes weren't expected to live as long, but improvements in the care available mean people with the condition can live a normal life, especially if their condition is managed.

Patients with type 1 diabetes require regular insulin injections or a pump to keep their blood glucose levels in check, while people who have type 2 diabetes may be able to reverse the condition with a healthy diet and exercise routine.

How can I get tested for diabetes?

GPs are able to use a quick finger-prick test to determine whether someone's blood glucose levels are elevated, putting them at risk of diabetes.

Diabetes Jersey also runs regular clinics allowing islanders to take a test free of charge. They are taking place at Castle Quay Pharmacy from 8am to 6pm on Tuesday 14 November 2023 to mark World Diabetes Day.

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