I have had type 2 diabetes for 15 years. I have been on oral medications to control my diabetes. My doctor has told me I now need to add insulin to my other medications and to go to my diabetes educator to learn insulin skills. Do I now have type 1 diabetes?
Not necessarily. Most likely, you are a person with type 2 diabetes that now requires insulin.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease occurs when one’s body does not recognize parts of itself and will form antibodies that attack its own tissue. Antibodies are a normal part of your body’s defense system. They are formed from proteins to fight foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria. They do not usually form to destroy part of your body, but in type 1 diabetes, antibodies form that attack the insulin producing beta cells. The cells die and insulin is no longer able to be made by the body. If type 1 diabetes is suspected, the doctor may test for specific antibodies as well as inflammation.
Type 2 diabetes is different. It is not an autoimmune disease so the body does not make antibodies that destroy the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas makes insulin but it may not be enough or your body may not be able to use it properly. Over time, in many people with type 2 diabetes, the body makes less and less insulin, thus requiring insulin injections. In fact, the statistics from the 2007-2009 Interview Survey presented by the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse states that 14% of adults in the United States with diabetes are on both oral diabetes medications and insulin. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor and medical team questions about your diabetes and how to take care of yourself. Also ask to make sure of your diagnosis. The more you know about your diabetes, the better you can take care of yourself.