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Research & Innovation

The Difference Between Type 1 and 2 Diabetes in Kids

BY Yale Medicine Video Team October 30, 2023

Poster for video The Difference Between Type 1 & Type 2 Diabetes in Kids - Yale Medicine Explains

[Originally published: Jan. 10, 2023. Updated: Oct. 30, 2023.]

An estimated 283,000 Americans under the age of 20 have diabetes, meaning their bodies either do not produce insulin or can’t use it properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps the cells in our bodies absorb the glucose (sugar) in our blood, which we use for energy.

Many of us know about diabetes, in general, but there are important differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes when it comes to insulin, a vital hormone.

Jennifer Sherr, MD, PhD, a Yale Medicine pediatric endocrinologist, who has type 1 diabetes herself, describes insulin as a key that unlocks our bodies so that the food and nutrients we eat can be metabolized and used as fuel for our bodies.

“In type 1 diabetes, it’s an autoimmune process. For some reason, your body sees insulin-producing cells within your pancreas as being foreign, so it starts attacking those cells,” Dr. Sherr says. “For youth with type 2 diabetes, we have a different situation. It’s an issue with insulin resistance. You still have the keys, but they are the wrong shape.”

Both types of diabetes require careful medical management, and Yale researchers are at the frontlines of developing new treatments for children diagnosed with either form of diabetes.

In this video, Dr. Sherr talks more about diabetes and how far treatment for the disease has come.

Visit the Yale Medicine Diabetes Content Center for more diabetes-related articles and videos.