Type 1 Diabetes
Who Gets Type 1 Diabetes?
Although the disease usually starts in people under the age of 20, type 1 diabetes may occur at any age.
The disease is relatively uncommon, accounting for only about 5% of the people with diabetes. The condition is more common in whites than in blacks and occurs equally in men and women.
What Causes Type 1 Diabetes?
Doctors don't know all the factors that lead to type 1 diabetes. Clearly, the susceptibility to the condition can be inherited.
Doctors have identified that an environmental trigger plays a role in causing the disease. Type 1 diabetes appears to occur when something in the environment -- a toxin or a virus (but doctors aren't sure) -- triggers the immune system to mistakenly attack the pancreas and destroy the beta cells of the pancreas to the point where they can no longer produce sufficient insulin. Markers of this destruction -- called autoantibodies -- can be seen in most people with type 1 diabetes. In fact, they are present in 85% to 90% of people with the condition when the blood sugars are high.
Because it's an autoimmune disease, type 1 diabetes can occur along with other autoimmune diseases such as hyperthyroidism from Grave's disease or the patchy decrease in skin pigmentation that occurs with vitiligo.
What Are the Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes?
The symptoms of type 1 diabetes are often subtle, but they can become severe. They include:
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger (especially after eating)
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and occasionally vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Frequent urination
- Unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry)
- Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
- Blurred vision
- Heavy, labored breathing (Kussmaul respiration)
- Frequent infections of the skin, urinary tract, or vagina
Signs of an emergency with type 1 diabetes include:
- Shaking and confusion
- Rapid breathing
- Fruity smell to the breath
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of consciousness (rare)
How Is Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosed?
If your health care provider suspects type 1 diabetes, he will first check for abnormalities in your blood (high blood sugar level). In addition, he may look for glucose or ketone bodies in the urine.
There is currently no way to screen for or prevent the development of type 1 diabetes.
Learn more about diabetes blood tests.
How Is Type 1 Diabetes Managed?
Many people with type 1 diabetes live long, healthy lives. The key to good health is keeping your blood sugar levels within your target range, which can be done with meal planning, exercise, and intensive insulin therapy. All people with type 1 diabetes must use insulin injections to control their blood sugar.
You will also need to check your blood sugar levels regularly and make adjustment of insulin, food, and activities to maintain a normal sugar.