Type 1 diabetes (also known as juvenile onset or insulin dependent diabetes) is when the body can no longer produce insulin (the hormone which helps your body to break down sugar/glucose) as a result of damage to the pancreas. It is a less common form of diabetes accounting for between 5% and 10% of all cases. However, type 1 diabetes can be lethal unless treated properly with insulin injections.
The cause of type 1 diabetes is still not fully understood. The damage to the pancreas generally occurs as the result of an auto-immune response by the body, where the body’s immune system turns on itself and attacks the beta cells of the pancreas (which produce insulin). The trigger behind this auto-immune response is unknown. Some researchers believe that it is a reaction to an infection. Others believe it is a genetically inherited weakness. More recent research suggests that type 1 diabetes could be linked to the nervous system, with faulty nerves in the pancreas possibly being the cause.
The symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually develop relatively quickly, in a matter of days or weeks. They can include:
– Increased Thirst Levels.
– Increased Hunger Levels.
– Increased need to Urinate.
– Loss of Weight.
– Blurred Vision.
– Fatigue and Weakness.
Apart from the above symptoms, sufferers of type 1 diabetes are also at risk of diabetic ketoacidosis. This is a serious blood chemical imbalance which occurs when the body’s cells do not get the glucose (the body’s primary source of energy) they require due to the lack of insulin. As a result the body starts to break down fat and muscle for energy. When the body uses fat for energy, it also releases ketones (fatty acids) into the blood stream which can cause:
– Hot and Dry Skin.
– Fruity Smelling Breath (similar to the smell of nail polish remover).
– Loss of Appetite.
– Abdominal Pain.
Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar/glucose) is another condition which affects diabetics, particularly type 1 diabetics. There are a number of causes but the three major ones are; alcohol (alcoholic beverages often lower blood pressure), overdosing on insulin (insulin injections are needed to lower your blood sugar to an acceptable level but taking too much can lead to hypoglycaemia) and calorie deficits (when your body does not get enough calories from the food you have eaten). The symptoms of hypoglycaemia can range from mild (which can usually be managed alone) to the more serious (for which you will usually require assistance) and include:
– Temporary Loss of Conciousness.
If you notice any of the above symptoms then it is essential that you see your doctor. They will be able to perform a number of tests which will confirm whether you have contracted type 1 diabetes. Two of the most common tests are outlined below:
1) FASTING PLASMA GLUCOSE TEST (FPG):- You will need to fast for eight hours prior to this test. Following your fast, your doctor will take a blood sample and measure your blood glucose levels. If your reading is above 126 milligrams per decilitre (mg/dL) this could indicate full diabetes. If this is the case the test will then be performed again and confirmed for accuracy. Failing this test twice (having blood sugar levels over 126 mg/dL) indicates that you have diabetes.
2) ORAL GLUCOSE TOLERANCE TEST (OGTT):- For this test you are again required to avoid food for at least eight hours. After this your doctor will take a blood sample and give you a sugary drink (glucose). A further blood sample will then be taken two hours after consuming this drink. For this test a reading of 200 mg/dL or over indicates the presence of diabetes.
If you fail either test the doctor will then investigate further to determine whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. If you are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes your doctor will prescribe insulin injections and advise you further. Unlike type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented or delayed. You will need to monitor your blood glucose levels at regular intervals throughout the day (using a home testing kit such as a glucometer) and you will need multiple daily insulin injections. Since your body can no longer produce insulin, these insulin injections will allow your body to absorb blood glucose and convert it into energy, preventing a build up of glucose in your blood. There are a number of different types of insulin available with each type working at different rates. Your doctor will be able to advise you further on which insulin type is best for you.
Although you will require insulin injections, diet and exercise still have a large part to play in controlling type 1 diabetes. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is crucial because it will help you keep your weight and blood sugar under control. It is particularly important that you eat carbohydrates regularly throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels as even as possible. Regular exercise is also essential because it promotes good circulation and causes your muscles to absorb more glucose, lowering your overall blood sugar levels. Your options include walking, jogging, swimming, team sports and cycling but whichever you choose try and remain active for at least 30 minutes per day.
Upon discovering that you have type 1 diabetes you are likely to feel sad and disappointed. Dealing with the condition will be difficult in the early stages as you will have to make some quite significant changes to your lifestyle. However, at present there is no cure for type 1 diabetes so it is essential for your health that you embrace these changes. Over time your type 1 diabetes will become less of a burden and you will soon learn that it does not have to control your life. Yes your lifestyle will have to change but you can still lead a rich, enjoyable life as a type 1 diabetic.
Whilst every intention has been made to make this article accurate and informative it is intended for general information only. Diabetes is a medical condition and this article is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your doctor or a qualified medical practitioner. If you have any concerns regarding type 1 or any other form of diabetes you should seek the advice of your doctor immediately.
Blood Glucose/Sugar Information (Wikipedia)
Diabetes and Hypoglycaemia Information (Diabetes.co.uk)
Diabetic Ketoacidosis Information (Yahoo Health)
Diabetes Study (CBC News)
Hypoglycaemia Information (Net Doctor)
Insulin Information (Wikipedia)
Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis Information (Health A to Z)
Type 1 Diabetes Facts (Net Doctor)
Type 1 Diabetes Facts (Wikipedia)
Type 1 Diabetes Facts (Diabetes.co.uk)
Type 1 Diabetes Facts (BUPA)
Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms (Yahoo Health)