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Half of new type 1 diabetes cases are in adults

An older woman smiles at the camera.

Oct. 6, 2022—Type 1 diabetes was once known as juvenile diabetes, but the truth is that it can be diagnosed at any age. In fact, the American Diabetes Association reports that about half of new cases of type 1 diabetes occur in adults over age 20.

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes have a lot in common. They both involve problems with insulin, and they can both lead to high blood glucose (sugar). That can cause serious health problems, including heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease. But the two types are not the same.

Type 2 diabetes happens when the body has trouble making or using insulin. It is the most common type of diabetes—and it can often be prevented or managed with lifestyle changes.

Type 1 diabetes happens when the pancreas stops producing insulin. It's much less common than type 2 diabetes, making up only 5% to 10% of total cases. According to the JDRF, type 1 diabetes is probably caused by an autoimmune reaction—when the immune system mistakenly attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It's also suspected that it may be related to changes in the environment or triggered by viral infections.

What to watch for

The symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes can be similar. But they may develop more quickly in type 1 diabetes—and the condition can be life-threatening. That's why it's important to recognize them. Signs and symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Breath that smells sweet or fruity.
  • Extreme thirst.
  • Feeling drowsy or lacking energy.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Heavy or labored breathing.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Sudden vision changes.
  • Unexpected weight loss.

If you have signs of diabetes, see a doctor right away. They can find out what kind you have and how it can be treated.

No matter which type you have, treatment—and a healthy lifestyle—can help you stay healthy. You can learn more about living well with type 1 or type 2 diabetes in our Diabetes health topic center.

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