According to research, type 1 diabetes is most common among non-Hispanic Caucasians, followed by African Americans and Hispanic Americans.
- The highest incidence rates are found in Finland and Italy and the lowest rates are found in South American countries, such as Venezuela and Brazil and Asian countries, such as China or Thailand.
- Caucasian people have type 1 diabetes more commonly than African American and Latino Americans.
- In the United States, Caucasians seem to be more susceptible to type 1 diabetes than African Americans and Hispanic Americans. Chinese and people in South America have a low risk of type 1 diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes is comparatively uncommon among Asians. Certain countries, such as Finland and Sweden, have higher rates of type 1 diabetes.
- However internationally, rates of type 1 diabetes are increasing. In Europe, the Middle East and Australia, rates of type 1 diabetes are increasing by two to five percent per year.
- The prevalence of type 1 diabetes is the highest in Scandinavia (Scandinavian Peninsula, Norway Sweden and Denmark) and the lowest in China and Japan.
What is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough of a hormone called insulin. Without insulin, sugar can’t get inside body cells and it builds up in the bloodstream. In type 1 diabetes, the body's immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancrea, and more than 90 percent of them are permanently destroyed. The pancreas, therefore, produces little or no insulin. Scientists classify this condition as an autoimmune disease, but they don’t know exactly what causes the body to attack the pancreas and halt the production of insulin. Risk factors may include
- Family history: Risk increases if a parent or sibling has type 1 diabetes.
- Environmental factors: Circumstances such as exposure to a viral illness likely play some role in type 1 diabetes.
- Presence of autoantibodies (damaging immune system cells): Sometimes, doctors test family members of people with type 1 diabetes for the presence of diabetes autoantibodies, but not everyone who has these autoantibodies develops diabetes.
- Dietary factors: These include low vitamin D consumption, early exposure to cow's milk or cow's milk formula and exposure to cereals before four months of age. However, studies are yet to confirm this risk incidence.
- Geography and race: Certain countries and ethnic populations have higher rates of type 1 diabetes, which we discussed above.
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Extreme thirst or hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blurry vision
- Dry skin
- Slow-healing wounds
- Increased infections due to a lowered immune system
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes often take a few weeks or months to show up and can start at any age. They may also include stomach pain, nausea or vomiting. They can be severe even during the early stages.
- Treatment of type 1 diabetes involves insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump, frequent blood sugar checks and counting carbohydrates.
- People with type 1 diabetes need insulin therapy to survive. Many types of insulin are available including rapid-acting insulin, long-acting insulin and intermediate options. Depending on your needs, your doctor may prescribe a mixture of insulin types to use throughout the day and night.
- An insulin pump may also be an option. It can be adjusted to deliver more or less insulin depending on meals, activity levels and blood sugar levels.
- An emerging treatment approach, which is not yet available, is called closed-loop insulin delivery. This is also known as the artificial pancreas. It links a continuous glucose monitor to an insulin pump. The device automatically delivers the correct amount of insulin when the monitor indicates the need for it. Clinical trials have demonstrated encouraging results. Combining a continuous glucose monitor with an insulin pump, this system stops insulin delivery when blood sugar levels drop too low. Studies on the device have reported that it could prevent low blood sugar levels overnight without significantly increasing morning blood sugar levels. More research is needed before a fully functional artificial pancreas can receive regulatory approval.
- Sometimes, oral or injected medications are prescribed as well. Some diabetes medications stimulate the pancreas to produce and release more insulin. Others inhibit the production and release of glucose from your liver.
- In some people who have type 1 diabetes, a pancreas transplant may be an option. With a successful pancreas transplant, they would no longer need insulin therapy. However, transplants aren't always successful, and these procedures pose serious risks. They need a lifetime of immune-suppressing drugs to prevent organ rejection. These drugs can have serious side effects, including a high risk of infection, organ injury and cancer. Because the side effects can be more dangerous than diabetes, transplants are usually reserved for people whose diabetes can't be controlled or those who also need a kidney transplant.
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