Diabetes Type 1 FAQ

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

An important difference between these two types of diabetes is their cause. Type 1 diabetes arises due to genetic factors and is an autoimmune disease, whereas type 2 occurs due to lifestyle factors. The management of these two conditions differs in that for type 1 diabetes, insulin is required, whereas for type 2, lifestyle changes, like exercise and diet, are recommended.1  The symptoms are common for both conditions. Common risk factors for type 2 diabetes include ethnic background, age and being overweight. 1 Currently there is no cure for either form of this condition; however, type 1 can be managed with insulin and type 2 with the relevant lifestyle changes in addition to medications when advised.1

What are the signs of diabetes type 1?

According to ‘Diabetes UK’, the following can be classified as symptoms of type 1 diabetes:

  • Frequent urination ( especially at night )2
  • Increased levels of thirst
  • Wounds and cuts healing slowly2  
  • Fatigue2  
  • Losing weight without having the intention to
  • Blurred eyesight2  
  • An increase in appetite2  

It is worth mentioning that the above symptoms are just a guideline, and you may experience one, none or multiple of the above. Symptoms can vary according to the individual. In children, typical warning signs include using the toilet more frequently, being thirstier than normal,  progressively getting thinner and having high levels of fatigue.2  

Is type 1 diabetes where you need sugar?

Type 1 diabetes is a condition whereby the body can’t manufacture insulin (a hormone), and this leads to high blood sugar levels.3  Insulin’s function is to be secreted in the pancreas in accordance with fluctuating levels of glucose (sugar).4  As patients with type 1 diabetes no longer produce insulin, injections of this are required daily depending on blood sugar levels to maintain a constant level. A blood sugar monitor is a constant tool utilized in order to measure your blood sugar levels and decide on the amount of insulin that is required. 

In terms of a diet, it is recommended that sugar be consumed in moderation. In fact, when hypoglycaemia (blood sugar drops below 70 mg/DL) occurs, it is advisable to consume a sugary drink or sweets in order to quickly elevate the blood sugar level.5 Blood sugar levels should be regularly monitored on the blood sugar monitor so as to administer the right amount of insulin to your body. Any unusual symptoms such as headaches and fatigue or oscillation in blood sugar levels should be consulted immediately with your doctor. 

Where is type 1 diabetes most common?

An estimated 537 million adults worldwide in 2021 between the ages of 20-79 suffer from either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.6 The ‘International Diabetes Federation’ states that 3 in 4 adults with diabetes live in low or middle-income countries.6 ‘Incidence rate’ is a mathematical tool to look at how quickly a disease develops within a certain population. ‘Diabetes UK’ looked at the incidence rate of type 1 diabetes between the ages of 0-14 and found the following countries to be in the top 5:

  1. Finland  (57.6 per 100,000)7
  2. Sweden  (43.1 per 100,000)7
  3. Saudi Arabia (31.4 per 100,000)7
  4. Norway  (27.9 per 100,000)7
  5. United Kingdom (24.5  per 100,000) 7

Upon analyzing the above data, it can be said that Finland has the highest incidence rate, with 57.6 cases of type 1 diabetes being diagnosed for every 100,000 children (0-14). As this type of diabetes is genetic, the incidence of children is looked at rather than adults, as the onset is usually during childhood. 

What triggers the onset of type 1 diabetes?

The onset of type 1 diabetes can be attributed to both genetic and environmental factors. Genetics mean that a close family member, usually one or both parents, also has the disease.  Environmental factors can be viral infections and viruses. Both enteroviruses and rotaviruses can trigger an autoimmune response whereby the body starts attacking its own immune system.An autoimmune response triggered by either of those viruses can cause the onset of type 1 diabetes by mutating the gene responsible for this type of diabetes.8

Can type 1 diabetes happen at any time?

Development of this disease usually occurs before the age of 40, with most cases presenting in childhood. Type 1 diabetes incidence rate peaks worldwide during puberty between the ages of 10-14.

Is there a pill for type 1 diabetes?

Recent research demonstrates that there is a pill in the making as part of the treatment plan for this disease. The oral pill, which is not yet commercially available, will aid in lowering blood glucose levels by provoking excess glucose to leave the body in the form of urine.10 However, this oral pill would still need to be taken alongside insulin as one form of medication cannot be substituted with the other.10 

Can type 1 diabetes be cured with medication?

At present, the medication can only help maintain a constant blood sugar level, and this will help in preventing further complications. As this is a chronic condition, insulin as a form of medication that needs to be taken for life. Unfortunately, the medication can only help control the glucose levels, alongside any symptoms you may experience, and not cure the condition completely. 

When does type 1 diabetes usually start?

Usually, this condition commences during childhood due to its genetic nature. However, this is not fixed, as some people can develop symptoms during adulthood. If you feel you or your child are suffering from any of the symptoms, then a doctor should be consulted in order to undergo relevant tests and make treatment plans. 

What increases the risk of type 1 diabetes? 

When looking at an increase in risk, this is commonly referred to as potential risk factors. 

The first risk factor is genetics. If a mother has this condition, then the risk of the offspring developing it becomes 1 in 40, whereas if the father has type 1, the risk increases to 1 in 15. 11 This is the main risk factor, however, as this condition is epigenetic there are also environmental factors to consider. The incidence of type 1 diabetes in children can also rise according to variance in seasons. Children have a higher risk of developing this condition in autumn- winter due to the increase in viral infections.11 


  1. Differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes [Internet]. Diabetes UK. 2022 [cited 22 September 2022]. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics/differences-between-type-1-and-type-2-diabetes 
  2. What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes? [Internet]. Diabetes UK. 2022 [cited 19 September 2022]. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics/diabetes-symptoms  
  3. Type 1 diabetes [Internet]. Diabetes UK. 2022 [cited 19 September 2022]. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics/types-of-diabetes/type-1 
  4. Wilcox G. Insulin and Insulin Resistance. Clin Biochem Rev [Internet]. 2005 [cited 19 September 2022];26(2). Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1204764/
  5. Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Glucose) | ADA [Internet]. Diabetes.org. 2022 [cited 20 September 2022]. Available from: https://diabetes.org/healthy-living/medication-treatments/blood-glucose-testing-and-control/hypoglycemia  
  6. Facts & figures [Internet]. Idf.org. 2022 [cited 20 September 2022]. Available from: https://idf.org/aboutdiabetes/what-is-diabetes/facts-figures.html  
  7. List of countries by incidence of Type 1 diabetes ages 0 to 14 [Internet]. Diabetes UK. 2022 [cited 20 September 2022]. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news_landing_page/uk-has-worlds-5th-highest-rate-of-type-1-diabetes-in-children/list-of-countries-by-incidence-of-type-1-diabetes-ages-0-to-14  
  8. Couper J. Environmental triggers of type 1 diabetes. Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health [Internet]. 2001 [cited 20 September 2022];37(3):218-220. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1440-1754.2001.00658.x  
  9. Chapter 1: Epidemiology of Type 1 Diabetes. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am [Internet]. 2011 [cited 21 September 2022];39(3). Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2925303/  
  10. First oral drug approved by EMA for use in treating type 1 diabetes [Internet]. Diabetes. 2019 [cited 21 September 2022]. Available from: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/news/2019/feb/first-oral-drug-approved-by-ema-for-use-in-treating-type-1-diabetes-94839813.html  
  11. Rewers M, Stene LC, Norris JM. Risk Factors for Type 1 Diabetes. In: Cowie CC, Casagrande SS, Menke A, et al., editors. Diabetes in America. 3rd edition. Bethesda (MD): National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (US); 2018 Aug. CHAPTER 11. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK567965/ 

Rebecca Dion

Master of Public Health - MPH Student, Lund University, Sweden

Interested in health promotion for children and young adults. I have been working and studying in the multicultural environments of London , Paris and more recently in Lund.

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