What is type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, or juvenile diabetes, is a chronic illness in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Causes include genetics or an ineffective immune system that attacks and destroys cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
Type 1 diabetes, or juvenile diabetes, is a chronic illness in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Causes include genetics or an ineffective immune system that attacks and destroys cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.

Diabetes is a condition when blood glucose (blood sugar) is too high. Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, is a chronic illness in which the pancreas does not produce insulin. It can be much more severe than type 2 diabetes, in which the pancreas does make some insulin but not enough. 

Type 1 diabetes usually begins in childhood or adolescence, but it can show up at any age. It is a relatively rare condition, with fewer than 200,000 cases diagnosed each year in the United States. Only 5% to 10% of people with the disease have type 1 diabetes.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes typically begin quite suddenly, unlike type 2, which often show symptoms gradually.

People with type 1 diabetes may experience the following symptoms:

Type 1 diabetes is a serious condition that may have serious complications. Symptoms of an emergency with type 1 diabetes include:

Causes of type 1 diabetes

There is no known direct cause of type 1 diabetes, but scientists think genes may play an important factor, as well as viruses and infections that can trigger your body’s immune system.

Ineffective immune system

Scientists currently believe that type 1 diabetes occurs when your body’s immune system, which normally fights off infections, instead attacks and destroys cells in your pancreas that produce insulin.

Insulin is a hormone that moves glucose into cells for energy. Without sufficient insulin, glucose builds up in the bloodstream. Elevated glucose remains in the blood, eventually causing severe complications with the kidneys, heart, nerves, eyes, gums and even teeth.

Genetics

Some people may have a genetic predisposition to develop type 1 diabetes. Although this may make them more likely to develop the disease, many people never do develop it, because most people who are at risk do not develop diabetes.

SLIDESHOW

Type 1 Diabetes (T1D): Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Vs. Type 2 See Slideshow

Tests for type 1 diabetes

If you and your doctor are concerned about the possibility of diabetes, diagnosis may include several tests. The following diagnostic tests that can reveal the presence of type 1 diabetes: 

Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test

This test measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to oxygen-carrying protein in the red blood cells (hemoglobin). The higher the blood sugar levels, the more hemoglobin with sugar attached. A level of 6.5% or higher of A1C on two separate tests reveals the presence of diabetes.

Random blood sugar test

Blood samples are taken at random times, and the presence of type 1 diabetes may be confirmed after repeat testing. Blood sugar is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or millimoles per liter (mmol/L). If a random blood sugar test reveals a level of 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L) or higher, the presence of diabetes is confirmed, especially when diabetic symptoms are already present.

Fasting blood sugar test

In this test, your doctor will take a blood sample after you had an overnight fast. A normal fasting blood sugar level of less than 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) is considered normal. A fasting blood sugar level from 100 to 125 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) is considered to be prediabetes. A level of 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) or higher on two separate tests confirms diabetes. 

If your doctor is uncertain of the diagnosis being type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, they’ll likely do more blood tests. The presence of autoantibodies or ketones (byproducts from the breakdown of fat) in the urine will point to type 1 diabetes rather than type 2.

Treatments for type 1 diabetes

Although there is currently no known cure for type 1 diabetes, several effective treatments are available, helping people to manage the disease and live a full life. Your doctor can help you manage Type 1 diabetes so you can assume life normally. You may need an insulin shot every day to manage blood levels and provide the energy the body needs. 

Your doctor may also recommend checking your blood sugar levels regularly. This helps ensure that you’re keeping it as close to the target level as possible to avoid complications. 

Managing diabetes is similar to managing any healthy lifestyle by eating healthy foods, getting adequate physical activity, and controlling both cholesterol and blood pressure.

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Medically Reviewed on 1/22/2021
References
American Diabetes Association: "Diagnosis."

American Diabetes Association: "Insulin Routines."

American Diabetes Association: "Type 1 Overview: Diabetes Symptoms."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Diabetes Tests."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Get Active!"

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Monitoring Your Blood Sugar."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Type 1 diabetes."

Diabetes Quebec: "Hyperglycemic Emergencies."

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Symptoms and Causes of Diabetes."

National Kidney Foundation: "Diabetes and Your Eyes, Heart, Nerves, Feet, and Kidneys."

You and Your Hormones: "What is insulin?"