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What do you know about diabetes type 1 and 2?

Chances are that you know what diabetes is, how it’s treated, and some of the serious health complications it can lead to. However, there’s an even higher chance – according to new international studies – that you will choose to ignore the signs of diabetes, even if you know what they are. This comes from a survey of 7,000 adults around the world that found that 4 out of 5 people do not recognize the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, which is the type that is largely preventable and develops mainly due to lifestyle choices.

Another study in Asian countries showed that people are quite reluctant to go for diabetes screenings, even when they understand the importance of them, the risk factors of the condition, or that they have a family member suffering from it. Interestingly, while 72% of respondents from Hong Kong said that annual screening for type 2 diabetes is necessary for their family, 47% of them have never been tested. While the study doesn’t answer why people do not get tested more regularly (or at all), the survey results draw attention to the need for increased public diabetes awareness, as well as the lack of support for those suffering from the illness.

To sum it up for you, and remind you about the importance of diabetes screenings and acknowledging the health consequences of the disease, Pacific Prime Hong Kong has answers to many of your diabetes and insurance questions below.

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What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a group of metabolic disorders whose main symptom is elevated blood sugar caused by improper insurance resistance. The hormone insulin is responsible for maintaining a proper level of sugar in the body. Insulin deficiency can lead to disorders of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the body. This, in turn, leads to chronic diabetes, which can damage a person’s kidneys, nervous system, eyes, heart, and blood vessels. There are two basic types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2. Despite commons features between them, they vary a lot.

Differences between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes

While both diabetes types share the same problem when it comes to high levels of blood sugar in the body, their symptoms and causes are what differentiates them.

For starters, type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented, as the risk factors include genetic and previous autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Addison’s disease, and Graves’ disease.

  • Type 1 diabetes is insulin-dependent, and it is an autoimmune disease, which essentially means that the body attacks itself. As a result of the autoimmunity seen in type 1 diabetes sufferers, the body’s immune system destroys the cells responsible for insulin production.
  • Treatment for type 1 diabetes consists of regular administration of insulin.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is a non-insulin-dependent metabolic disease. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, and accounts for about 80-90% of all cases.

  • This type of diabetes is also characterized by high levels of glucose in the blood, in addition to resistance to insulin and its relative deficiency due to insufficient insulin production.
  • The causes of type 2 diabetes have roots in lifestyle factors – such as obesity and inactivity – but genetic factors play a significant role, too.
  • Treatment of type 2 diabetes is primarily focused on changes in lifestyle, self-control, and maintaining an appropriate blood sugar level. Treatment can be extended to anti-diabetic medications.

The conclusion here is that, while diabetes type 1 can have roots in your family health history or can develop as an effect of other diseases,  it’s really incurable. On the other hand, type 2 diabetes can be cured and prevented in the majority of cases, as the causes and risk factors lie in the lifestyle choices surrounding diet and exercise.

Diabetes Type 1 Diabetes Type 2
Autoimmune disease Lifestyle disease
Treatment: insulin Treatment: medicines, diet
Mostly diagnosed in children and adolescents Mostly diagnosed in older people (adults)
Diagnosed in patients of all weights Diagnosed mainly in overweight and obese patients
Sugar testing repeatedly throughout the day Sugar testing is necessary once in a while
Left untreated or undertreated, leads to major hyperglycemia Left untreated or undertreated, leads to moderate hyperglycemia


Besides type 1 and type 2 diabetes, there is another type of this disease that affects pregnant women: gestational diabetes. You might have heard a term type 3 diabetes, which is another name for Alzheimer’s disease, since it results from resistance to insulin in the brain.

What are the signs of diabetes?

The most common signs of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent cuts or sores that heal slowly
  • Extreme hunger

If you experience any of these symptoms, especially when it’s a few of them at once, visit your doctor as soon as possible. Only a doctor can diagnose diabetes. They will need to confirm the symptoms, including high blood glucose or sugar in the urine, via diabetes screenings.

Diabetes type 1 needs regular insulin injections, in contrary to Diabetes type 2
Diabetes type 1 needs regular insulin injections

What are long term implications of untreated diabetes?

The main goal of diabetes treatment is to minimize and prevent any potentially dangerous complications. Acute (early) complications of diabetes include diabetic coma, ketoacidosis, hypoglycemia, and hyperglycemia, among others. Long-term complications can be even more dangerous.  

For people with diabetes whose blood sugar levels are not evened out, cardiovascular diseases are among the biggest threats to their health, because they can lead to disability or death. People with diabetes also need to worry about frequent infections, renal failure, or even loss of sight.

Diabetes and international health insurance

Since there is a wide range of diabetes complications, international insurance companies will often exclude coverage for it to the new joiners that already have the condition. In such cases, diabetes is treated as a pre-existing medical condition. However, sometimes it will be possible for brokers, such as Pacific Prime Hong Kong, to negotiate with an insurer to include coverage for diabetes and its complications with an additional loading (i.e. paying an additional premium).

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For all that are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, Pacific Prime encourages that you receive regular screenings, which are most likely covered in every international health insurance plan under outpatient benefits. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, changing insurers will be incredibly hard to while still maintaining coverage for diabetes; especially if you don’t want to pay a heavy loading on top of your premiums for the coverage.

We’ve written more on this topic in our recently released resource, which is available for free download today. Titled “Your Guide to Obtaining Long Term Health Insurance”, this guide describes tactics and things to consider when choosing an international health insurance plan; one of which is to have constant and affordable coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Get insurance advice from the best broker in the city

If you would like to learn more about coverage options for diabetes, or check if your new plan can cover screenings or other wellness options, feel free to contact us today! Our friendly and experienced team of insurance advisers will answer all of your health insurance questions, and help to choose the right medical plan for your needs by presenting you with free quotes and plan comparisons, as well as by sharing their extensive insurance knowledge with you.

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime Hong Kong
Elwira Skrybus is a content writer at Pacific Prime. In her everyday work, she is utilizing her previous social media and branding experience to create informative articles, guides, and reports to help our readers simplify the sometimes-puzzling world of international health insurance.

When she isn’t writing, you are most likely to find Elwira in search of the perfect plant-based burger or enjoying Hong Kong’s great outdoors either at the beach or from the boat - the closer to the sea, the better!