Understanding Type 1 Diabetes

What is Type 1 Diabetes?A picture of a man testing his blood pressure.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when your pancreas doesn’t produce sufficient insulin. Of the two primary types of diabetes, Type 1 is less common, and accounts for only about 5 percent of all diabetes cases.

Insulin is a hormone that helps cells move and process glucose, the body’s main fuel source. Without insulin, the glucose can’t be moved into the cells and it builds up in the blood. The result is high blood sugar, which can cause a multitude of symptoms, including:

Excessive Urination
All the extra sugar in your blood has to be expelled through urine. Those with Type 1 diabetes will urinate more often, which will also lead to dehydration and the feeling of thirst.

Weight Loss
Since the excess glucose is being expelled through the urine, your body isn’t absorbing the associated calories. That, coupled with the dehydration, can lead to unintentional weight-loss. Increased hunger and fatigue are also common side-effects of improper calorie and energy utilization.

Cell and Tissue Damage
Over time, the excess glucose in your blood will harm the nerves and small blood vessels in your eyes, kidneys and heart. The build-up of sugar can also lead to a hardening of the arteries, increasing your risk for heart attack and stroke.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)
Without glucose to fuel the body, your cells will breakdown and utilize fat cells. This process creates ketones, an acidic chemical, that when combined with the excess glucose and dehydration can be life-threatening if not treated. Symptoms of DKA include flushed, hot skin, loss of appetite, vomiting, stomach pain, rapid breathing, drowsiness and confusion.

Treatment Options

Diabetes requires near constant surveillance and management in order to maintain proper blood sugar levels. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, such as:

  1. Daily insulin injections
  2. The use of an insulin pump
  3. Taking several insulin injections every day or using an insulin pump
  4. Eating a healthy diet
  5. Regular exercise
  6. Routine medical checkups
  7. Not smoking and restricting alcohol consumption
 

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