Type 1 Diabetes
(Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus; Juvenile-Onset Diabetes; Ketosis-Prone Diabetes; "Brittle" Diabetes; Diabetes Mellitus Type 1; Diabetes, Type 1)
Type 1 diabetes is when the body does not make enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body convert food into energy. Without insulin, glucose (sugar) from the food you eat cannot enter cells. So glucose builds up in the blood. Your body tissue becomes starved for energy.
Type 1 diabetes usually begins in children and young adults. Over the long-term, if type 1 diabetes is not adequately treated, high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels, heart, kidneys, eyes, nerves, and other tissues or organs.
Most cases of type 1 diabetes are caused by the body's immune system attacking and destroying the islet cells that make insulin. These cells are in the pancreas. The current theory is that some people have genes that make them prone to getting type 1 diabetes. For these people, certain things in the environment may trigger an immune system attack on the pancreas. The trigger or triggers have yet to be identified, but may be certain viruses, foods, or chemicals.
Some studies suggest that an enterovirus infection—which is common and usually causes diarrhea and fever with or without rash—may contribute to the development of diabetes in some children. Children with relatively high birth weights are more likely to get diabetes than are those with lower weights.
How Type 1 Diabetes Occurs
These factors increase your chance of developing type 1 diabetes. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
- Family history (parent, sibling) of type 1 diabetes
- Age: starts at age 4 with peak at ages 11-13
- Sex: more common in males than females
- Ethnicity: Northern European, Mediterranean, African Americans, Hispanics
- Bottle-feeding or short duration of breastfeeding
- Risk increases with increase in birth weight
- Other autoimmune illness, including:
If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to type 1 diabetes. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:
- Weight loss
- Increased urination
- Extreme thirst
- Fatigue, weakness
- Blurry vision
Destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic cells may occur so quickly that ketoacidosis
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, medical history, and family history, and do a physical exam.
Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed based on the results of blood tests and other criteria. These include:
- Symptoms consistent with diabetes and a random blood test revealing a blood sugar level greater than or equal to 200 mg/dL* (11.1 mmol/L)
- Blood sugar tests after you have not eaten for eight or more hours (called fasting blood test) revealing blood sugar levels greater than or equal to 126 mg/dL (7.0 mmol/L) on two different days
- Glucose tolerance test measuring blood sugar two hours after you consume glucose with a measurement greater than or equal to 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L)
- HbA1c level of 6.5% or higher, indicating high blood sugar over the past 2-4 months
*mg/dL = milligrams per deciliter of blood, mmol/L = millimole per liter of blood
Some children may be tested for insulin levels or anti-pancreas antibodies to confirm the diagnosis.
Diabetes treatment aims to maintain blood sugar at levels as close to normal as possible. Regular medical care is important for preventing or delaying complications.
Amylin is made in the pancreas like insulin. In people with type 1 diabetes, this hormone is lacking, also like insulin. Researchers think that the post-meal glucose rise in
If you have type 1 diabetes, you should meet regularly with a registered dietician. Generally speaking, it is best to:
- Follow a well-balanced meal plan incorporating a variety of food groups.
- Eat consistently at regular times each day, including a bedtime snack.
- Limit the amount of fat in the diet.
- Avoid highly refined carbohydrates (sugar or high fructose products).
Exercise is encouraged when blood sugar levels are consistently under control and there are no complications. Follow your doctor's advice on activity levels and restrictions. You may need to adjust your insulin regimen or diet to compensate for low glucose levels linked to exercise.
Blood Sugar Testing
Checking blood sugar levels during the day helps you track the amount of glucose in your blood. Testing is easy with a blood glucose monitor. You can also ask your doctor about continuous glucose monitoring systems that you wear all day.
Keep a record of the results to show your doctor. Your treatment plan may change based on your test results. The HbA1c blood test is also used by your doctor to access your overall diabetes control.
This procedure is recommended if you have:
If you are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, follow your doctor's instructions .
American Diabetes Association
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
Canadian Diabetes Association
Team Diabetes Canada
Canadian Diabetes Association
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Last reviewed November 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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