Using an insulin pen

A tale of two diseases

The immune system is involved in both types of diabetes

Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes

An autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the beta cells in the pancreas that produce the hormone insulin. In healthy people, naturally produced insulin controls the level of glucose in their blood, whereas people with type 1 diabetes have to inject themselves regularly with insulin to control their blood glucose levels. Extremely high or low blood glucose can be fatal.

Type 2 diabetes

Usually develops later in life, if the body becomes resistant to insulin. Eventually, tablets may be needed to control blood glucose levels. Traditionally, type 2 diabetes has not been thought of as an immune disease. However, it is increasingly being linked to inflammation, a key immune response. High levels of the chemicals that cause inflammation have been measured in people with type 2 diabetes. Very recently, Danish researchers found that immune cells called macrophages are involved in an inflammatory response that leads to the death of pancreatic beta cells during the early stages of the disease.

Lead image:

Using an insulin pen.

Room 202/Flickr CC BY NC


About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Immune System’ in January 2015.

Health, infection and disease, Medicine, Immunology
Immune System
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development