Please note – I am not a health care professional and this article is written purely based on my experience and should not be used for diagnostic purposes.
As I have grown up with a cousin that has type 1 diabetes I have always been aware that there are multiple types of diabetes, and of the main differences between them. It didn’t take much for me to realise I needed to go and get checked out, but not everyone is that “lucky”. There are so many differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and how they are diagnosed is just the tip of the iceberg.
Many people are not really aware of the differences between the different types of diabetes, and I don’t blame you as from the outside they can seem very similar. In fact, the initial symptoms of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are extremely similar and revolve around the T’s:
- Toilet – a need to visit the bathroom a lot more frequently. In children this can manifest itself in sudden bed wetting or accidents in a child that was previously completely toilet trained.
- Thirst – an unquenchable thirst like you wouldn’t believe. An inability to satisfy the need for a drink no matter what you try.
- Tired – Feeling fatigued despite having adequate rest.
- And only for Type 1 diabetes – Thinner – Sudden weight loss and looking a lot thinner than usual.
However, after that the similarities end and things tend to go down completely different paths. Diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is done at your GP, or quite often in the hospital as the signs have been missed and you end up with DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis). Symptoms can come on quite quickly and are often misdiagnosed as a virus or the flu.
I was very lucky with my diagnosis. As symptoms were similar to the ones my cousin had, and with the knowledge that Type 1 diabetes is genetic I was fairly quick to book myself in to see the GP. It still took 4 days from that first appointment to receiving a diagnosis, during which time my condition deteriorated. Thankfully I managed to narrowly avoid a hospital admission and was able to go home the same day armed with insulin and needles to start this wild journey.
Although Type 1 usually comes on very quickly which tends to raise the alarm for most people, Type 2 diabetes is often missed completely. It can gradually build up, with many people first being in the “pre-diabetic” stage for a long period of time.
The long term complications from living with diabetes of any time can be catastrophic, but if you don’t have a diagnosis how can you be expected to make a change? If your symptoms come on suddenly or worsen then I would urge you to visit your doctor immediately.
Of course, diagnosis is just one day. It is a day that changes everything, but it is not the be all and end all. With type 1 diabetes you go in to it knowing that there is no cure and you will always require insulin in order to live. Although with type 2 diabetes there is the possibility of living without medication, you will always have to be aware of what you are eating in the knowledge that in the future it may come back. But regardless of the type – know that you should never be defined by diabetes.