Type 1 Diabetes
Explore Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is a medical condition that develops when beta cells in the body are permanently destroyed and the body can no longer produce any insulin.
Often referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes, it usually develops at a young age and requires patients to take regular daily injections of insulin to keep blood sugar levels under control.
How common is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2 diabetes. According to the National Diabetes Education Program, 25.8 million Americans have diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes accounts for just over 10% of all people with diabetes in the USA, with 3 million people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
What causes type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is what is known as an autoimmune disease as it occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly targets and kills off insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.
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Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone that is used to help transport glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into the body’s cells where it is turned into energy. Without it, the body can no longer control its blood glucose levels and the symptoms of diabetes start to appear.
What causes this abnormal immune system behaviour is not fully understood, although scientists believe this autoimmune attack may be triggered by a viral or bacterial infection.
Genetics are also thought to play a part in the development of type 1 diabetes. In fact, researchers have established that a person’s risk of developing type 1 diabetes increases by:
- 10% if they have a brother or sister with type 1 diabetes
- 30% if both their parents are diagnosed with the disease
Read more about the causes of type 1 diabetes.
What are the symptoms?
The common signs of type 1 diabetes include:
These symptoms are often referred to as the 4Ts of type 1 – Toilet, Thirsty, Tired and Thinner – and should be acted upon immediately, as without treatment this type of diabetes can be deadly.
Other less common symptoms, which may accompany the above symptoms, include:
How is type 1 diabetes treated?
Type 1 diabetes is particularly difficult to control due to the lack of insulin in the body.
The role of insulin is to take glucose out of the blood and into your body’s cells, where it is then broken down to produce energy. Without insulin, glucose is prevented from entering these cells and builds up in the blood.
To help keep blood glucose levels normal, people with type 1 diabetes are therefore required to inject themselves with insulin multiple times a day and regularly check their blood sugars. This strict regimen must also be combined with a healthy, carefully calculated diet and regular physical activity.
- Find out more about treatment for type 1 diabetes.
Complications of type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is a serious chronic condition, which over time and without adequate treatment can lead to the development of other diabetes-related conditions – more commonly known as complications.
Complications of type 1 diabetes include:
- Retinopathy (eye disease)
- Neuropathy (nerve damage)
- Nephropathy (kidney disease)
- Heart attack and stroke
You can dramatically reduce your chances of developing health complications by maintaining good blood glucose control and undergoing regular screening for diabetic complications.
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Last reviewed: February 12, 2015 at 16:57
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