Type 1 Diabetes
|What Is Type 1 Diabetes?
Terminology: It was originally called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes.
It is a type of diabetes which usually starts in childhood or early adulthood. It is characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood caused by failure of the pancreas to produce insulin (a hormone that removes glucose from the blood). Type 1 diabetes is a serious condition and if left untreated will quickly lead to severe complications, coma and even death. Type 1 diabetics account for about 10 percent of all people who receive a diabetes diagnosis. While there is no cure for the disease, patients can manage their symptoms with daily injections of insulin (on average 4 or 5 injections a day). Insulin can only be taken in injection form, although the delivery of injections has become much more convenient with the introduction of insulin pens. Type 2 diabetes on the other hand tends to develop later in life (which is why it was traditionally called adult onset diabetes) and is linked to obesity and other lifestyle risk factors. It tends to produce milder symptoms than type 1 diabetes (usually because the body still produces some insulin), and can usually be managed with diet and exercise and/or oral medications. If it worsens, the patient may need to take a few shots of insulin (typically 1 or 2 daily).
The immediate cause of type 1 diabetes is the failure of the pancreas (a small organ located behind the stomach) to produce insulin. Wherever insulin travels in the body it opens up cells so that they accept glucose from the blood which is immediately used for energy or stored as fat for later use. Without insulin, glucose remains sloshing around in the blood where it eventually triggers symptoms of diabetes.
The Body Attacks Itself
Exposure To A Virus
Type 1 diabetes tends to develop very quickly (type 2 on the other hand can takes years), so that by the time a patient is diagnosed, they are often very ill. Common signs include:
Your doctor will order several blood glucose tests. These tests are described in detail in our article, diabetes diagnosis. The tests will measure the levels of glucose in your blood. If the results are consistently high, across all the tests, a diagnosis will be made. See also, are there any home tests for diabetes?
As most patients are quite sick by the time they are diagnosed, an initial hospital stay may be necessary. There is no cure for any type of diabetes; instead the goal of diabetes treatment is to reduce the symptoms of the disease by stabilizing blood sugar levels. Initially you will be seen by your doctor once a week, until you have your blood sugar levels under control. Your healthcare team should consist of your primary care doctor, an endocrinologist (diabetes consultant), a dietician and a diabetes educator. Together this team will:
Diet And Exercise
Your doctor will talk to you about potential diabetes complications. By managing to keep your glucose levels as normal as possible, you should be able to delay the onset of (or even prevent) complications such as kidney disease, eyes problems and foot disorders (for specific details take a quick look at our article on diabetes facts). It is also worth reading our articles on:
Currently, there are no proven methods to prevent the onset of type 1 diabetes (see also diabetes prevention). However, scientists are working hard to find a way. In the not too distant future children with a family history of type 1 diabetes may be offered genetic testing for the chromosome most associated with the disease. At this stage, there is no point in identifying who is at risk because we still don't have a way to stop them developing the disease. Scientists still need to pinpoint the exact virus which triggers diabetes. But once they do, they will produce a vaccination to hopefully prevent the onset of the disease in children who genetically test positive. Doctors in Finland (where the disease is most common) have tried various vaccines, but none have worked so far. In the meantime, other trials are looking at ways to stop the body's immune system from destroying the entire pancreas in people already diagnosed with the disease. This includes the use of steroid drugs, cytotoxic drugs and nicotinamide (a type of B vitamin). Finally, until proven otherwise, if you are having children, do consider breastfeeding rather than giving them cow’s milk. If you're looking for more information check out our list of websites under diabetes resources.
|Related Articles on Type 1 Diabetics
For more questions on diabetes, see the following:
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