One persistent myth of diabetes is that people with type 2 diabetes can develop type 1 diabetes when they take insulin, but this is not true.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes have many features in common, including problems with glucose control. However, the two conditions are distinct, and one does not transform into the other over time.
In this article, we debunk the myth that type 2 diabetes can turn into type 1 diabetes and look at the differences between the two types.
Some people believe that taking insulin can turn type 2 diabetes into type 1. This is not the case.
It is not possible for type 2 diabetes to turn into type 1 diabetes.
However, a person who originally receives a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes may still get a separate diagnosis of type 1 at a later date.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common type, so a doctor might initially suspect that an adult with diabetes has type 2. Type 1 diabetes most often develops when a person is younger, although it can occur in people of any age.
It is possible for a person with type 1 diabetes to receive an incorrect diagnosis of type 2 diabetes if the diagnosis takes place in adulthood. This situation may be more likely to occur if the person is also overweight or has other risk factors for type 2 diabetes, such as a sedentary lifestyle.
Although it is uncommon, type 1 diabetes may develop in adulthood.
A person with type 2 diabetes who later receives a diagnosis of type 1 will not have experienced a change in their diabetes status. Instead, it is likely that they received a misdiagnosis in the first instance.
To diagnose diabetes, a doctor will perform several blood glucose tests. However, the results will not make it possible for them to differentiate between the two types.
They may also carry out blood tests to check for antibodies that attack insulin-secreting beta cells in the pancreas. The presence of these antibodies usually means that a person has type 1 diabetes. 90% of patients with type 1 diabetes are found to have these antibodies. Another test that helps determine whether a person has type 1 or type 2 diabetes is a C-peptide test.
This test measures how much insulin the person’s pancreas is producing, and a low result can indicate type 1 diabetes.
Although they cause similar symptoms, type 1 and type 2 diabetes are separate conditions with different mechanisms.
In most cases, a person will receive a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, which is sometimes called juvenile diabetes, during childhood or early adulthood.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin.
This process prevents the production of insulin, a hormone that controls a person’s blood sugar levels by allowing glucose to enter the cells.
A person with type 1 diabetes will need to take insulin shots for the rest of their life. Lifestyle changes will not reverse type 1 diabetes, but they can help with glucose control and may reduce the risk of health-related complications.
Doctors usually diagnose type 2 diabetes in adults, with those who are 45 years of age or older having a higher chance of developing this condition.
However, it is important to note that age is not a reliable diagnostic tool for the type of diabetes that a person has. Now that obesity is so prevalent among people of all ages, type 2 diabetes can occur as early as childhood.
This type of diabetes interferes with the body’s ability to produce and use insulin. Unlike type 1 diabetes, certain lifestyle factors, such as physical inactivity, smoking, and obesity, can increase the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
Some people can control the symptoms of type 2 diabetes by making lifestyle changes. These may include doing about 150 minutes of light-to-moderate exercise every week, losing body weight, and eating a healthful, balanced diet.
People with more advanced type 2 diabetes might need to take medications, such as metformin or other medications, to support blood glucose control.
As with other autoimmune disorders, researchers do not understand what causes type 1 diabetes, but they believe that both environmental and genetic factors might play a role in its development.
For instance, a person with a genetic predisposition to type 1 diabetes might not experience symptoms until an environmental factor, such as a viral illness, interacts with the relevant gene.
Once type 1 diabetes has developed, the immune system continues attacking the pancreas until it destroys all of the beta cells. These beta cells are essential for producing insulin, so people with type 1 diabetes cannot make this hormone.
Both genetic and environmental factors also play a role in type 2 diabetes. However, type 2 diabetes has closer links to lifestyle choices and diet.
Some people with type 2 diabetes can reduce the severity of symptoms or even eliminate them altogether by making healthful lifestyle changes. Other people remain resistant to insulin even after adapting their lifestyle.
Some people with type 2 diabetes will need to inject insulin to manage their blood sugar levels. However, it is often possible to manage this condition without insulin. Doctors will often prescribe other medications and lifestyle changes for people with type 2 diabetes instead.
People with type 1 diabetes may need to make lifestyle changes, such as reducing their intake of high-carbohydrate foods. Lifestyle changes alone, however, will not prevent or reverse type 1 diabetes.
As a result, people with type 1 diabetes are dependent on insulin, and the condition is sometimes called insulin-dependent diabetes.
People with type 1 diabetes must closely monitor their blood glucose levels. Even with frequent monitoring and regular insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump, they might develop dangerously high blood glucose levels at times.
When blood sugar spikes occur, they might need further insulin or emergency medical care.
People with type 2 diabetes will need insulin if other treatments are ineffective in helping them manage their blood glucose levels. They may also need insulin if there are contraindications to non-insulin diabetes medications, or if the condition, which is usually progressive, becomes chronic with significant reduction in pancreas ability to produce insulin.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are distinct types that do not change into one another. However, insulin may be used to treat either type.
While insulin is the only treatment available for type 1 diabetes, some people with type 2 also use it is in more advanced stages of the condition or if other treatments are not successful.
The symptoms of both types of diabetes may be subtle at first, and they may not cause symptoms at all. However, people who do not receive treatment for either type of diabetes might experience long-term, sometimes life-threatening complications.
The first symptoms of diabetes might include increased thirst, increased daytime and night-time urination, and unexplained weight loss.
Anyone with these symptoms should seek a medical opinion and undergo blood testing, especially if a person has a family history of diabetes.
Having the support of people who understand what it is like to live with type 2 diabetes is important. T2D Healthline is a free app that provides support through one-on-one conversations and live group discussions with people who have received this diagnosis. Download the app for iPhone or Android.