What is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas. The organ doesn't make enough insulin. It is different from type 2 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes don't make any insulin at all. The immune system destroys important cells in the insulin production process. The onset often happens in childhood.
People with type 2 diabetes make some insulin, but the amount they make decreases over time. It usually comes on in adulthood. Eventually, they may stop producing it altogether.
However, type 1 diabetes can not be reversed, while symptoms of type 2 diabetes may be ameliorated with lifestyle changes in some cases, if they are made early enough in the progression of the disease.
While most people get type 1 diabetes in childhood or as a teenager, it can happen at any age. Symptoms include:
- Peeing a lot, especially at night
- Extreme thirst
- Losing weight suddenly
- Extreme hunger
- Blurred vision
- Tingling hands and feet
- Dry skin
- Feeling tired
- Lowered immune function
- Digestive issues and stomach pain
Type 1 diabetes is caused by an auto-immune reaction. The immune system destroys beta cells—the cells that make insulin. This removes the body's ability to produce it. Diet and lifestyle are not a factor in type 1 diabetes.
Who can get it?
Anyone can get type 1 diabetes. Some people have a genetic predisposition for type 1 diabetes. However, just because you have a family history of the disease doesn't mean you will get it.
Tests for type 1 diabetes
There are a few tests a doctor may perform to diagnose type 1 diabetes.
This test looks for specific antibodies that the body makes when it attacks the beta cells in your pancreas. This test is usually given to direct relatives of people with type 1 diabetes because it can help to predict whether or not someone may develop type 1 diabetes up to one year before they have any symptoms.
This test may also be given to people with close relatives who have type 1 diabetes. It can help to identify if someone has a genetic predisposition to getting the disease.
Fasting plasma glucose test
This test checks your blood sugar levels. The fasting test is taken after you have not eaten anything for eight hours. There is another non-fasted version of this test. Either one can give a snapshot of blood sugar levels to help determine if you have diabetes.
Hemoglobin A1c test
This test measures how much glucose is found in your red blood cells. High glucose levels shown in this test can be a sign of type 1 diabetes.
Treatments for type 1 diabetes
People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin as directed. Some people may use medical devices like an insulin pump so they don't have to inject themselves with insulin multiple times a day. Each person's schedule of taking insulin is tailored to their particular schedule and habits. Your doctor will help you figure out an insulin schedule that works for you.
Many people with type 1 diabetes benefit from following a meal plan to balance their insulin needs with how many carbohydrates they eat.
They must also monitor their blood sugar levels to make sure they don't get too high or too low. People with type 1 diabetes can test using a drop of blood obtained through a finger-stick, or a wearable device called a continuous glucose monitor.
People with type 1 diabetes should wear a medical identification bracelet so first responders will know how to treat them during a medical emergency.
Complications of treatment
Taking insulin must be balanced with how many carbohydrates you eat. If you mismatch the number of carbs with the amount of insulin given, your blood sugar can get too high or too low.
Improper management of diabetes can result in long term health effects like:
- Damage to blood vessels
- Heart attack
- Kidney damage
- Reduced circulation to feet. This can result in sores that may not heal, requiring amputation
- Blindness (diabetic retinopathy)
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Mayo Clinic: "Amputation and diabetes: How to protect your feet."
National Health Service: "Diabetic retinopathy."
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Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes: Differences
Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic condition in which a person's blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. Over 29.1 million children and adults in the US have diabetes. Of that, 8.1 million people have diabetes and don't even know it. Type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent, juvenile) is caused by a problem with insulin production by the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent) is caused by:
Eating a lot of foods and drinking beverages with simple carbohydrates (pizza, white breads, pastas, cereals, pastries, etc.) and simple sugars (donuts, candy, etc.)
- Consuming too many products with artificial sweeteners (We found out that they are bad for us!)
- Lack of activity
While the signs and symptoms of both types of diabetes are the same, which include:
- Increased urination
- Increased hunger
- Increased thirst
- Unexplained weight loss.
However, the treatments are different. Type 1 diabetes is insulin dependent, which means a person with this type of diabetes requires treatment with insulin. People with type 2 diabetes require medication, lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise.
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Which is Worse - Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes?Learn about the similarities and differences between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes.