How are type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) differentiated?

Updated: Oct 23, 2019
  • Author: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP; Chief Editor: George T Griffing, MD  more...
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Answer

Unlike patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus, patients with type 2 are not absolutely dependent on insulin for life. This distinction was the basis for the older terms for types 1 and 2, insulin dependent and non–insulin dependent diabetes.

However, many patients with type 2 diabetes are ultimately treated with insulin. Because they retain the ability to secrete some endogenous insulin, they are considered to require insulin but not to depend on insulin. Nevertheless, given the potential for confusion due to classification based on treatment rather than etiology, the older terms have been abandoned. [9] Another older term for type 2 diabetes mellitus was adult-onset diabetes. Currently, because of the epidemic of obesity and inactivity in children, type 2 diabetes mellitus is occurring at younger and younger ages. Although type 2 diabetes mellitus typically affects individuals older than 40 years, it has been diagnosed in children as young as 2 years of age who have a family history of diabetes. In many communities, type 2 diabetes now outnumbers type 1 among children with newly diagnosed diabetes. (See Epidemiology.)


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