What is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is all about insulin—a lack of the hormone insulin. If you have type 1 diabetes, then your body doesn’t produce enough insulin to handle the glucose in your body. Glucose is a sugar that your body uses for instant energy, but in order for your body to use it properly, you have to have insulin.
What are the symptoms of type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes develops gradually, but the symptoms may seem to come on suddenly. It can take years for the body to deplete its insulin, but as soon as there’s no more insulin in the body, blood glucose levels rise quickly. Symptoms can then rapidly develop, including:
Extreme weakness and/or tiredness
Nausea and/or vomiting
Wounds that don’t heal well
Irritability or quick mood changes
Changes to (or loss of) menstruation
What are the signs of type 1 diabetes?
Signs are different from symptoms in that they can be measured objectively; symptoms are experienced and reported by the patient. Signs of type 1 diabetes include:
Weight loss—despite eating more
Rapid heart rate
Reduced blood pressure (falling below 90/60)
Low body temperature (below 97º F)
What causes type 1 diabetes?
It isn’t entirely clear what triggers the development of type 1 diabetes. Researchers do know that genes play a role; there is an inherited susceptibility. However, something must set off the immune system, causing it to turn against itself and leading to the development of type 1 diabetes.
What are the risk factors for type 1 diabetes?
There are several risk factors that may make it more likely that you’ll develop type 1 diabetes—if you have the genetic marker that makes you susceptible to diabetes. That genetic marker is located on chromosome 6, and it’s an HLA (human leukocyte antigen) complex.
Several HLA complexes have been connected to type 1 diabetes, and if you have one or more of those, you may develop type 1. (However, having the necessary HLA complex is not a guarantee that you will develop diabetes; in fact, less than 10% of people with the “right” complex(es) actually develop type 1.)
Other risk factors for type 1 diabetes include:
Early diet (especially cow’s milk)
Other autoimmune condition.
Misconceptions about Type 1 Diabetes
Myth:“You must have eaten too much sugar to get type 1 diabetes.”
Fact: Not so.
Type 1 is like being hit by lightning. It happens sometimes, and it’s not anybody’s fault. Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly what causes type 1 diabetes, and researchers are still trying to get a clear picture about genetic and environmental factors that may play roles, including exposure to viruses or bacteria that live in your gut.
One thing we do know, though, is that it’s not brought on by too much sugar.
How is type 1 diabetes treated?
Type 1 diabetes is treated with a combination of insulin, diet, and exercise.
It’s absolutely necessary for people with type 1 diabetes to take insulin because their bodies don’t produce it. There are several types of insulin, and your diabetes treatment team will work with you to figure out the right dosages. Plus, they’ll walk you through all the details of insulin delivery (giving insulin to your body). .
Diet and exercise will help you control the effects of type 1 diabetes. Eating a healthy, carb-conscious diet will make it easier for you to control your blood glucose level, and researchers have shown that tight blood glucose control over the years significantly limits the development of long-term complications of diabetes.
Similarly, staying physically fit and active has many benefits, including keeping your heart healthy, which can prevent the macrovascular complications associated with diabetes. Exercise also makes it easier to control your blood glucose level.
Hyperglycemia and Hypoglycemia in Diabetes
Hyperglycemia can occur when blood sugar levels are too high. People develop hyperglycemia if their diabetes is not treated properly. Hypoglycemia sets in when blood sugar levels are too low. This is usually a side effect of treatment with blood-sugar-lowering medication.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease with far-reaching health effects. In type 1 diabetes, the body only produces very little insulin, or none at all. In type 2 diabetes, not enough insulin is released into the bloodstream, or the insulin cannot be used properly.
We need insulin to live. Without it, sugar (glucose) builds up in the blood because it cannot be taken out and used by the body. Very high blood sugar, known as hyperglycemia, leads to a number of symptoms. If blood sugar levels are too low, it is called hypoglycemia.
When is blood sugar considered to be too high or too low?
Slight fluctuations in blood sugar levels are completely normal and also happen on a daily basis in people who do not have diabetes. Between around 72 and 125 milligrams of sugar per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) is considered to be healthy. This is equivalent to blood sugar concentrations between 4.0 and 7.0 mmol/L. “Millimole per liter” (mmol/L) is the international unit for measuring blood sugar. It indicates the concentration of a certain substance per liter.
If type 1 diabetes is left untreated, people’s blood sugar levels can get very high, even exceeding 27.8 mmol/L (500 mg/dL). Blood sugar concentrations below 4.0 mmol/L (72 mg/dL) are considered to be too low.
Signs of very high blood sugar levels in type 1 diabetes may include:
Extreme thirst, drinking a lot and then urinating frequently as a result
Unintentionally losing a lot of weight within a few weeks
Noticeable loss of energy with muscle weakness, tiredness and a strongly impaired general condition
Nausea and stomach pain
Frequent infections (cystitis, thrush)
Confusion and drowsiness, or even coma
If you,a family member or a friend have these symptoms, you should contact a doctor as soon as possible.
What is diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)?
How is DKA diagnosed?
Low blood sugar is most common in people who use insulin or take certain tablets to reduce high blood sugar. This is because things like unplanned physical activity, eating meals later than usual, or drinking too much alcohol can mean that you need less insulin than you thought, causing your blood sugar to drop very low.
Signs that your blood sugar is too low may include:
Feeling incredibly hungry
Shivering, feeling weak in the knees
Feeling restless, nervous or anxious
Difficulty concentrating, confusion
These symptoms do not occur all at once. The signs of hypoglycemia not only depend on the blood sugar level, but also vary from person to person. If you are not sure whether your blood sugar is too low, you can measure it to make sure. Mild hypoglycemia does not usually have any harmful effects. But it is important to react quickly enough and eat or drink something, such as dextrose sugar or sugary drink.
People who have severe hypoglycemia may feel very drowsy and confused, and might even become unconscious. If this happens, someone else can inject the hormone glucagon. If this is not possible it is important to call the emergency services immediately and ask for medical help.