Type 1 & Type 2: The Difference

Diabetes UK

The main difference between the type 1 and type 2 diabetes is that type 1 diabetes is a genetic condition that often shows up early in life, and type 2 is mainly lifestyle-related and develops over time. With type 1 diabetes, your immune system is attacking and destroying the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas.

Although type 1 and type 2 diabetes both have things in common, there are lots of differences. Like what causes them, who they affect, and how you should manage them. 

For a start, type 1 affects 8% of everyone with diabetes. While type 2 diabetes affects about 90%.

Some people get confused between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. This can mean you have to explain that what works for one type doesn't work for the other, and that there are different causes.  

The main thing to remember is that both are as serious as each other. Having high blood glucose (or sugar) levels can lead to serious health complications, no matter whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. So if you have either condition, you need to take the right steps to manage it. 

Type 1 and type 2 differences

Below is a guide to some of the main differences between type 1 and type 2. 


Type 1

Type 2

What is happening?

Your body attacks the cells in your pancreas which means it cannot make any insulin.

Your body is unable to make enough insulin or the insulin you do make doesn’t work properly.

Risk factors

We don’t currently know what causes type 1 diabetes.

We know some things can put you at risk of having type 2 like weight and ethnicity.


The symptoms for type 1 appear more quickly.

Type 2 symptoms can be easier to miss because they appear more slowly.


Type 1 is managed by taking insulin to control your blood sugar.

You can manage type 2 diabetes in more ways than type 1. These include through medication, exercise and diet. People with type 2 can also be prescribed insulin.

Cure and Prevention

Currently there is no cure for type 1 but research continues.

Type 2 cannot be cured but there is evidence to say in many cases it can be prevented and put into remission.

What happens when you have type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

If you have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it means you have too much glucose (a type of sugar) in your blood. This is the same for both types. But the difference between them is how this happens. 

If you have type 1 diabetes, it means you have an autoimmune condition. This means your body has attacked and destroyed the cells that make a hormone called insulin. So you can’t make insulin anymore. 

We all need insulin as it helps take the glucose from our blood into our body’s cells. We then use this glucose for energy. Without insulin, the glucose level in your blood gets too high.

Type 2 diabetes is different. If you’ve got type 2, either your body doesn’t make enough insulin, or your insulin doesn’t work properly. This is known as insulin resistance. Like type 1, this means the level of glucose in your blood is too high.

Are there different risk factors for type 1 and type 2?

We don’t know exactly what causes type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but we do know the different risk factors. So we know why you might be likely to get one type over the other. Even though we know this, it’s good to remember these aren’t set in stone.

Type 1

A big difference between the two is that type 1 isn’t affected by your lifestyle. Or your weight. That means you can’t affect your risk of developing type 1 by lifestyle changes.

People up to the age of 40 are more likely to be diagnosed with it, especially children. In fact, most children with diabetes have type 1. But, although it’s less common, people over 40 can also be diagnosed with it. 

Type 2

It’s different for type 2 diabetes. We know some things put you at more risk:

  • your family history
  • ethnic background
  • age
  • if you’re overweight or obese.

We also know that there are things you can to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Things like eating healthily, being active and maintaining a healthy weight can help you to prevent type 2.

You’re also more likely to get type 2 if you’re over 40. Or if you’re South Asian, if you’re over 25. But type 2 is also becoming more common in younger people. More and more children and young people get diagnosed with type 2 in the UK each year

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