To understand if someone can have both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, it’s important to first understand the difference between the two. Type 1 diabetes refers to a disease in which the pancreas does not produce insulin or produces an insufficient amount to control blood sugar. As a result, an individual with type 1 diabetes will need life long insulin treatment. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin. The insulin is produced by the body, but is not able to effectively control blood sugar levels. When diabetes is diagnosed, the type is determined based on whether the poorly controlled blood sugar is a result of insufficient insulin or insulin-resistance. Therefore, only one type of diabetes can be present in an individual, but there may be situations in which the diagnosis is less clear.
Type 1 Diabetes
A person with type 1 diabetes may develop insulin-resistance and metabolic problems, similar to that of type 2 diabetes. The causes can be similar to some of the factors contributing to type 2 diabetes. Typically, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and abnormal blood fat and the subsequent risk of heart disease are associated with type 2 diabetes. Under certain conditions such as obesity, low physical activity and being a member of a high-risk ethnic group, one with type 1 diabetes may develop insulin-resistance, appearing to have both types. The person may need to increase insulin dose and may develop metabolic problems associated with type 2, as mentioned earlier.
Type 2 Diabetes
A person with type 2 diabetes may have a part of type 1 as well, with insulin producing cells almost destructed. This condition is known as Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults or LADA. LADA is mostly the half stage between type 1 and type 2 and hence it’s commonly termed as Diabetes type 1.5. Medically, it is considered as a subset of type 1. Those with LADA need insulin shots to manage their diabetes early on. Nearly 10% of type 2 diabetes patients have LADA. Initially, LADA patients produce insulin at a better level than type 1, but after a few years, daily injections may be required.
Although the two types of diabetes do sometimes overlap, a person cannot be diagnosed with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.