How to Differentiate Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes in Older Adults

How to Differentiate Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes in Older Adults

Diabetes which means siphon in Greek and can be translated to English as to pass through.  The word diabetes was first used by Aratus of Cappadocia (81-133AD), the disease was first diagnosed in 1552 BC when an Egyptian physician named Hesy-Ra discovered that frequent urination is one of the causes of a disease.

Thomas Willis added mellitus which means sweet or honey to the word diabetes, this was to represent the sweet taste of the urine of those diagnosed to have diabetes.


  • Diabetes results when the blood glucose level is too much in the blood and this causes damage to the blood vessels, heart, kidneys, eyes, and the nerves.
  • According to WHO About 422 million people worldwide have diabetes, the majority living in low-and middle-income countries, and 1.5 million deaths are directly attributed to diabetes each year. Both the number of cases and the prevalence of diabetes have been steadily increasing over the past few decades.
  • Globally, men suffer more from diabetes than women. Diabetes in men may lead to sexual health problems such as premature ejaculation.

Types of diabetes in older adults

We basically have two (2) types of diabetes which are the type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes

This is a type of diabetes caused by the body’s inability to produce insulin. In this condition, the insulin producing cells which are called beta cells are being destroyed. As a result, the body becomes deficient of insulin. The insulin is a hormone that regulates the amount of glucose found in the blood stream and because of the body’s inability to produce enough insulin to regulate the glucose level in the blood results to type 1 diabetes.

Signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes in older adults

Signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes includes:

  • Extreme thirst.
  • Increased hunger (especially after eating)
  • Dry mouth.
  • Upset stomach and vomiting.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue.
  • Blurry vision

Causes of type 1 diabetes in older adults

Due to the activities carried out by the body’s immune system, the insulin producing cells in the pancreas may be destroyed leading to the shortage of insulin and this in turn causes type 1 diabetes.

Risk factors associated with type 1 diabetes in older adults

  • Family history: If a member of a family has or had suffered from type 1 diabetes, any trace of diabetes type 1 in the family history of an individual.
  • Gene: Any individual that has the variants of HLA-DQA1, HLA-DQB1, and HLA-DRB1 genes is at a very high risk of suffering from diabetes type 1
  • Race: According to American diabetes association, Caucasians tends to suffer more from diabetes type 1 than African Americans and Hispanic Americans.

Prevention of type 1 diabetes in older adults

Type 1 diabetes can be prevented by:

  • Reducing sugar intake and carbohydrates from diet
  • Drinking enough water
  • Regular exercise
  • Eating fiber
  • Quitting smoking

Diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in older adults

Random blood-sugar test: This is a test carried out by a physician to detect the amount of glucose in the blood of an individual, another type of test is the A1C test also known as the glycated haemoglobin test. If the sugar level in the blood is around 200 milligrams per decilitre or higher, that individual is diagnosed to have diabetes type 1.

Treatment of diabetes type 1 in older adults

Insulin is used in treating type 1 diabetes, it can be short, intermediate, or long-acting insulin depending on the level of insulin needed in the blood of the patient.

Type 2 diabetes

 Diabetes type 2 is milder than type 1 diabetes. It is caused when there is too much sugar in the blood, it is a chronic condition which results as a malfunctioning in the way the body regulates and utilize glucose in the blood. When type 2 diabetes is not diagnosed on time, it can lead to disorders such as stroke and heart failure.

Signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes

Whenever an individual notices any of these signs or symptoms in the body that individual is at risk of suffering from diabetes type 2. Some of these signs and symptoms are:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Always feeling hungry
  • Feeling very tired
  • Blurry vision
  • Slow healing of cuts and wounds
  • pain in the hands or feet
  • Patches of dark skin

Causes of diabetes type 2

In type 2 diabetes, the body is no longer able to utilize or regulate insulin, this makes the body resistant to the hormone (insulin). In this condition, the pancreas works vigorously to produce insulin, and this can damage the pancreatic cells that suppose to produce insulin needed in the body which in turn makes the body deficient from insulin. Glucose tends to accumulate in the blood due to the inability of the body to produce or utilize glucose.

Risk factors associated with diabetes type 2

Below are some of the factors that can lead to diabetes type 2:

  • Prediabetes: This is a condition in which an individual has a slight increase of glucose level in the blood, anyone diagnosed with prediabetes is at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Obesity: Obesity increases the level of fatty acids and inflammation in the body and the accumulation of fatty acids in the body, makes the body to be resistant to insulin which in turn leads to diabetes type 2.
  • Age: Older adults aged 65 years and older are at a higher risk of having diabetes type 2.
  • Family history: if a parent, brother, or sister has or had ever suffered type 2 diabetes, the individual has a higher risk of suffering from diabetes type 2.
  • Lack of exercise: Lack of exercise can increase the risk of diabetes type 2.
  • Gestational diabetes: This is a type of diabetes that occur during pregnancy. This is because of the body’s inability to produce or utilize insulin during pregnancy. Any woman that has suffered from gestational diabetes have a high risk of suffering from diabetes type 2

Prevention of type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes can be prevented if the following lifestyles are observed:

  • Eating healthy
  • Loose weight
  • Exercise regularly

Diagnosis of type 2 diabetes

Just like the type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes can be diagnosed using the glycated haemoglobin test, it indicates the sugar level in the blood; test results below 5.7% is normal, 5.7 to 6.4 is diagnosed as prediabetes while 6.5 or higher is detected as diabetes.

Treatment of type 2 diabetes

The use of insulin, metformin, Sulfonylureas, Meglitinides, Thiazolidinediones, DPP-4 inhibitors, GLP-1 receptor agonists and SGLT2 inhibitors are used to regulate glucose in the blood thereby helping the body to utilize glucose.

Read also: How to Detect Prostate Cancer In Older Adults

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Can diabetes be cured?

Once diagnosed, diabetes is treated rather than cured. If you take care to manage your diabetes, you can maintain an excellent quality of life and prevent complications from the disease.

How to differentiate between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

In type 1 diabetes there is no production of insulin while in type 2 diabetes there either is too little insulin or an inability to effectively use insulin

Final thoughts

Lifestyle changes can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes in older adults who are at high risk of getting the disease.

Featured image from by Photomix Company.

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