Also known as: Juvenile Diabetes, Insulin-Dependent Diabetes, Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus
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Type 1 diabetes is considered an autoimmune disease and a
chronic medical condition, in which pancreas produces insufficient amount of
insulin or does not produce insulin at all because the body’s immune system
mistakenly destroys beta cells, which are responsible for making insulin in the
Insulin is a hormone that is needed to help glucose get from
your blood into your body’s cells to produce energy. Glucose is sugar that your
body gets from the food you eat. Because in type 1 diabetes your body is
incapable of processing glucose due to lack or absence of insulin, the glucose
cannot pass into your body’s cells and gets accumulated in the blood, resulting
in high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), which can lead to serious, and sometimes
fatal, health issues.
Type 1 diabetes was formerly called insulin-dependent
diabetes or juvenile diabetes because it is most commonly diagnosed in children
and young adults and because people with type 1 diabetes must get insulin injections
or use insulin pumps, which automatically deliver insulin, for the rest of
It can take from several months to several years to get a
critical number of beta cells destroyed before type 1 diabetes symptoms become
noticeable. Those symptoms may include excessive hunger, extreme thirst,
fatigue, frequent urination, blurred vision, dry mouth and skin, nausea and
vomiting, rapid breathing, and unexplained weight loss.
Although, despite continuous research, the specific cause of
type 1 diabetes remains unknown, scientists believe that it can be caused by
genes. Scientists discovered that type 1 diabetes can develop in people, who
have a specific human leukocyte antigen (HLA) complex – the complex of antigens
that trigger an immune response in the body. Besides, type 1 diabetes is also
believed to be triggered by viruses and other environmental factors.
Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed by measuring blood sugar level,
while also taking into consideration your age and symptoms. The blood tests
include Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) test that is taken in the morning after
overnight fasting; Oral Glucose Tolerance test (OGTT), when blood sugar is
measured two hours after you drink 75 grams of glucose; Random blood glucose
test; and Hemoglobin A1C (glycohemoglobin) test that measures the average
glucose level over the period of past 2-3 months. Besides, test can be done on
your urine for glucose and for chemicals that your body produces when your insulin
level is insufficient.
If you get diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, it is crucial to
take all necessary steps to properly manage it. That mostly involves
controlling your blood sugar because high blood sugar can damage various parts
of your body and cause disabling or even life-threatening complications,
including increased risk of heart attack, blood vessel disease, pregnancy
complications, neuropathy (nerve damage), nephropathy (kidney damage), eye
damage (including blindness), and feet damage that can cause amputation.
Nevertheless, people with type 1 diabetes can
leave a long, healthy life if they manage the disease right. You will have to
regularly check your blood sugar, take insulin injections daily or wear an
insulin pump, and also maintain healthy lifestyle, which means practicing
healthy eating habits, having regular physical activity, getting enough sleep, managing
stress, monitoring your eyes, skin, and feet, and controlling your cholesterol
and blood pressure. You will also need to regularly meet with your healthcare
providers to make sure that you are doing everything right and to get necessary
guidance and support whenever needed.
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