What Is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes

People who have type 1 diabetes have trouble producing insulin. Formerly called juvenile diabetes, this condition is much more rare than type 2 diabetes. In fact, only 5 percent of diabetics are diagnosed with type 1. So what is it and what are the symptoms? Read on to learn more about the disease and how it can be treated with solutions such as insulin therapy.


Type 1 101

The pancreas is the part of the body responsible for making insulin, which is a hormone necessary to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy. Cells in the pancreas known as “islets” are responsible for identifying how much glucose is in the bloodstream. The islets then produce enough insulin to open cells and allow glucose to enter and use the sugar for energy.

Type 1 diabetes is referred to as an autoimmune disease because, for a reason scientists have yet to discover, the body’s immune system actually attacks the insulin-producing cells, mistaking them as foreign bodies. Without that insulin, the sugar is not able to get into the body’s cells, so it remains in the blood. The body’s cells will then actually starve because they do not have the glucose necessary for energy. That is why treatments like insulin therapy are a necessary intervention.


Symptoms of Type 1

People with the condition may experience signs over weeks, though they often come on quickly. The symptoms include the following:

  • Bedwetting, especially in children who did not previously have the problem
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Extreme hunger and increased thirst
  • Weight loss
  • Blurred vision

Because these symptoms may develop quickly, some people mistake them for signs of the flu or another illness. However, it is the high blood surge that is triggering these effects.

It is important to note that diabetics can also develop symptoms associated with having low blood sugar, which is the most dangerous condition for people with type 1 to experience. It can lead to insulin shock and can be life-threatening if not addressed right away. The signs of low blood sugar include weakness, hunger, confusion, sweatiness and shaking.


Causes of High and Low Blood Sugar

Diabetics who use insulin therapy can help to control the levels of sugar in the blood. In fact, not getting enough insulin will trigger a high blood sugar, and taking too much will lead to low blood sugar. Several other reasons a diabetic might have high blood sugar includes eating too much, taking certain medications such as sleeping pills and pregnancy.

On the contrary, skipping meals or excessive exercise will lead to low blood sugar. Alcohol consumption and medications such as aspirin can also result in low levels of sugar in the blood.


Insulin Therapy Treatment

The best way for someone with type 1 to manage the condition is to use insulin therapy. Most people with type 1 will have to inject themselves with insulin every day and possibly even more often than that. Some people will opt for an insulin pump, which is a device that is outside the body and feeds insulin through a tube into the system. The outside insulin will help to regulate the person’s blood sugar and keep the system in balance.

The key to using insulin effectively is to determine how much is needed. As illustrated by the causes of high and low blood sugar, factors such as food, stress and exercise will affect the dosage. There are several types of insulin, such as rapid-acting, long-acting and intermediate options.


Other Ways to Manage the Condition

In addition to using insulin therapy, diabetics can rely on some other key behaviors to help keep blood sugar levels under control. For example, they may want to count the carbohydrates they consume. A physician would likely recommend that a diabetic stay away from refined carbohydrates, such as candy and white bread. The best diet for people with type 1 would be to eat a balance of nutrient-packed, high-fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

If people with diabetes wish to exercise, they should always check with a physician. While the movement is good for anyone, it is important to keep in mind that activity can lower the blood sugar. Therefore, a diabetic may need to check blood sugar levels more often and adjust a meal plan or insulin injection accordingly.

While living with type 1 is not easy, it is manageable when the right steps are taken. Getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step, followed by insulin therapy and a balanced diet.

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