Type 1 diabetes is a disorder in which the body does not make enough insulin to meet daily needs. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body convert food into energy. Without insulin, glucose (sugar) from the food you eat cannot enter cells and glucose builds up in the blood. Your body tissue becomes starved for energy.
Type 1 diabetes usually begins in children and young adults. If type 1 diabetes is not treated effectively, long-term, high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels, heart, kidneys, eyes, nerves, and other tissues.
Most cases of type 1 diabetes are caused by the body's immune system attacking and destroying insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The current theory is that people whose genes make them prone to this disease are exposed to something in the environment that triggers an immune system attack on the pancreas. The trigger may be a virus, a food, a chemical, or a drug.
Current evidence suggests that enterovirus infectionwhich is common and usually causes diarrhea and fever with or without rashmay 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.
2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.Studies show that the following may be risk factors for developing type 1 diabetes:
Family history (parent, sibling) of type 1 diabetes
Age: starts at age 4 with peak at ages 11 to13
Sex: more common in males than females
Race: more common in Caucasians, African Americans, and Hispanics than in Asians
Ethnicity: Northern European or Mediterranean
Bottlefeeding or short duration of breastfeeding
Birth weight above 10 lbs
Other autoimmune illness, including:
Poor wound healing
Reduced or no appetite
Numbness and tingling in hands and feet
Insulin-producing cell destruction may occur so quickly that ketoacidosis (commonly known as diabetic coma) is the first sign of a problem. Symptoms of ketoacidosis include:
Vomiting and nausea
Dehydration (not enough fluid in the body)
Abnormally deep and fast breathing
Dry skin and mouth
Fruity breath odor
Low blood pressure
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical and family history, and perform a physical exam.
Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed based on the results of blood tests and other criteria, including:
Symptoms of 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 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 glucoserarely necessary to diagnose type 1 diabetes
*mg/dL = milligrams per deciliter of blood, mmol/L = millimole per liter of blood
Some children may receive testing 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 essential for preventing or delaying complications.
Insulin is essential for life. Insulin injection replaces what the pancreas would have produced. The doses may be adjusted based on results of blood sugar tests conducted prior to meals and at bedtime. You will need to administer insulin two, three, or more times daily or wear an insulin pump that continually supplies a small amount of insulin. The pump connects to tubing and a small needle or catheter under the skin.
Amylin is produced in the pancreatic beta cells like insulin. In type 1 diabetic patients, this hormone is deficient, as well as insulin. It has long been suspected that the post-meal glucose rise in type 2 diabetic patients is somehow related to the amylin deficiency. The drug pramlintide (Symlin) has recently been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of type 1 and 2 diabetes.
Follow a balanced meal plan, eating consistent and moderate amounts of food at regular times each day.
Do not skip meals.
Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and fiber.
Eat limited amounts of fat.
Eat moderate amounts of protein and low-fat dairy products.
Avoid foods high in sugar.
Eat a bedtime snack with protein and a starchy food.
Keep a record of the food you eat to help a dietitian or doctor revise your nutritional needs.
Exercise is encouraged when blood sugar levels are under control and there are no complications. Follow your doctor's recommendations for activity levels and restrictions. You may need to adjust your insulin regimen or diet to compensate for low glucose levels associated with 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. Keep a record of the results to show the doctor. Your treatment plan may change based on your test results.
This procedure is recommended if you have:
Severe kidney disease and have a kidney transplant at the same time as the pancreatic transplant
Acute diabetic complications or emergencies not preventable by insulin
Severe problems from injecting self with large amounts of insulin
Severe and frequent diabetic complications
Researchers are studying immunosuppressive treatments to prevent type 1 diabetes in high-risk patients.
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National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
Canadian Diabetes Association
Team Diabetes Canada
Canadian Diabetes Association
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Last reviewed March 2008 by David Juan, MD
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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