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What Is Diabetes? (video)

Learn the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes

Learn the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes

Athena Philis-Tsimikas, MD, an endocrinologist and corporate vice president of the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute, explains the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, the causes and symptoms and who is at risk.

Video transcript

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition where the blood sugars are higher than normal. This occurs for a couple reasons. It can occur when our beta cells that produce insulin in our body stop functioning or decline in function. It can also occur when the muscles in our body become resistant to the effects of insulin and much more is needed in order to control that blood glucose value.

What’s the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is a condition where our body creates antibodies that turn against those beta cells and destroy them all. You’re left without any insulin. You need insulin really for life. You need it in order to manage the blood sugar levels.


Type 2 diabetes is a condition where the beta cell function declines over time. But additionally, we have resistance at the muscle level. We might have the liver overproducing too much sugar. All three of those things together result in high blood sugar levels.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

The symptoms of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are essentially the same because it’s the result of those elevated blood sugar values. Most commonly what we might see is frequent urination or large amounts of urination. This results in dehydration, which makes you feel very thirsty. It can also leave you with dry skin and itchiness because of that dehydration. You can also be losing weight without really understanding it. You can be trying to eat more but not being able to really catch up with that weight loss.

How do I know if I’m at risk for diabetes?

How do you find out if you’re at risk for diabetes? There really are a couple ways.


You could take a paper test or one online to see if you have some of the associations, including whether you may have had diabetes during your pregnancy, or may have a relative with diabetes or may be from a race or ethnic group that has a high risk. African-Americans, Latino and Asian-Americans are all at higher risk of developing diabetes.


If those risks are high, you really need to go to your doctor’s office and get a blood test. That blood test ideally should be done in the morning. Or we can do an average blood test called a hemoglobin A1C. If that comes back high, it indicates that you have diabetes.

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