What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is a kind of diabetes that results from problem with the pancreas. The pancreas is the organ that makes and releases insulin into the blood. Beta cells are the cells in the pancreas that make and release the insulin. Diabetes type 1 is caused when the pancreas is damaged by the immune system attack (autoimmune), infection, cancer or other diseases.

This kind of diabetes is sometimes hereditary, that is, parents can pass on to their children, so someone whose relative has the disease could have a risk factor for the disease. Anyone who is exposed to the infection, disease or cancer that can damage the beta cells in the pancreas and stop them from making and releasing insulin can develop this type of diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is also called juvenile diabetes. Though it can start at any age, it is the kind of diabetes that mostly occurs in people who are below the age of forty years. Type 2 diabetes, when observed in this age group is likely due to childhood obesity or just obesity. Parents of children with risk factors for this type of diabetes should be familiar with symptoms of juvenile diabetes in order to seek early treatment if their child develops the disease.

There is no pre-diabetes in type 1 diabetes. The first symptoms observed are actual signs of diabetes.

Causes of Type 1 Diabetes

As mentioned above, juvenile diabetes is caused by injury to the pancreas that lower or stop the ability of the beta cells of the pancreas to make and release insulin. This injury can be caused when the person's immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells (autoimmune disease). The autoimmune destruction of the beta cells of the pancreas can run in the family, that is, it can be hereditary. Other causes of juvenile diabetes are infection, cancer and other diseases that can destroy the beta cells of the pancreas.

Prevention of Juvenile Diabetes

Type one diabetes can be prevented by taking care to prevent diseases and infections. It is important to observe adequate hygiene and take steps to keep the body safe from infections. It is important to get immunized to avoid diseases that may affect the pancreas. People should adhere to recommended cancer screening to prevent the destruction of the beta cells of the pancreas by cancer.

Juvenile Diabetes Symptoms

Type 1 diabetes symptoms are closely related to overall symptoms of diabetes. There are important differences between symptoms of type one diabetes and type 2 diabetes symptoms, and they are:

  1. One of the early warning signs of type 1 diabetes is weight loss, while one of the early warning signs of type 2 diabetes can be weight gain or high BMI.
  2. Ketone in urine is one of the signs of juvenile diabetes, while ketone is absent in type 2 diabetes.
  3. Juvenile diabetes does not improve with oral diabetes medication, which are diabetes medicines taken by mouth. Type 2 diabetes can be effectively treated with oral diabetes medicines. Type 1 diabetes is only treated with insulin.
  4. Juvenile diabetes occurs in people before the age of forty years, while type 2 diabetes usually does not start before the age of forty, except in the case of obesity.
  5. People with juvenile diabetes can have a medical emergency that is caused by hyperglycemia called diabetic ketoacidosis. People with type two diabetes can have medical emergency that is caused by hyperglycemia and it is called diabetic non-ketotic coma.

Diagnosing Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

There are some tests that the doctor can use when making diagnosis for type one diabetes. She can obtain the fasting blood glucose of the patient. The person is usually instructed to fast for at least eight hours before the test. Sometimes, the doctor may decide to do a random or non-fasting blood glucose test. If the result is blood sugar that is above the normal range, the physician usually does other tests to further investigate the glucose tolerance by the body. These tests can be either hemoglobin A1c or glucose tolerance test.

Hemoglobin A1c is a test that checks how high the blood sugar has been for the past three months. If the hemoglobin A1c is above 6.5% , that is regarded as diabetes. Hemoglobin A1C that is between 5.7% and 6.4%, it is regarded as pre-diabetes. Hemoglobin A1c test is the recommended test by the American Diabetes Association or ADA. This is because the A1c test does not require fasting and multiple blood draws and is more likely to encourage patient compliance.

In glucose tolerance test, the person is given a sugar drink after a fasting blood glucose test. The blood glucose is then drawn after one, two and three hours to show how the body is handling the sugar in the blood.

The normal blood glucose falls between 65-105mg/dl. Fasting blood sugar that is 106-140mg/dl is pre-diabetes. Fasting blood sugar that is over 140mg/dl can be considered to be diabetic.

The physician has some things to consider in order to decide if the diabetes is type 1 or juvenile diabetes. Some of the things she will consider are:

  • Family history of the patient - If there is a family history, the doctor will consider it. Remember that there may or not be family history for a person to develop this type of diabetes.
  • Age of the patient -Usually if the patient is less than forty years of age and not obese.
  • Weight of the patient, the BMI- People usually lose weight when they have untreated type 1 diabetes.
  • Presence of absence of ketones in the urine - if ketones are found, the diabetes can be considered as type one diabetes.
  • The more of the above present, the more definitive the diagnosis of juvenile diabetes.

REMEMBER: Only your doctor can make a medical diagnosis, even if all the factors are present.

Type 1 Diabetes Treatment

Type 1 diabetes is usually treated with use of insulin from the onset. This is because the person with this type of diabetes is insulin deficient, that is, their pancreas is not making and releasing insulin. We can actually regard type 1 diabetes treatment as insulin replacement therapy. In addition to insulin treatment, the person receives diabetes education on care to prevent the symptoms of juvenile diabetes. You can take the type 1 diabetes symptoms quiz to test your knowledge. You can also see diabetes treatment for additional information.

Management of Insulin Dependent Diabetes

Management of type 1 diabetes entails managing the blood sugar levels to keep it as close to normal as possible. The patient also learns the right diets for juvenile diabetes. Type 1 diabetics can also benefit from a good exercise regimen. The dietician usually helps the patient by teaching food choices and portions. The dietician also teaches the patient the diabetic exchange diet guide to help patient in food choices.

The patient learns how to use glucometer or blood sugar machine to check blood sugar. The patient is taught the proper way of doing finger stick and how to self-administer insulin. It is important for the patient to wear a diabetic medical alert bracelet. The diabetic medical alert bracelet is very important in the event of medical emergency especial if the patient loses consciousness.

Juvenile Diabetes diet

Juvenile diabetes diet follows general diabetic diet guidelines.

Complications of Juvenile Diabetes

Complications of juvenile diabetes include hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol, frequent infections like yeast infections and urinary tract infections, kidney damage, diabetic ketoacidosis, diabetic wounds or non-healing wounds and extreme dry skin. Complications result when the signs of diabetes are ignored and not treated.

Cure for Type 1 Diabetes

At this time, there is no approved cure for juvenile diabetes in the United States, but there is promising and ongoing juvenile diabetes research. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is dedicated to prevent, treat and cure type one diabetes. The difficulty in preventing this type of diabetes results from the fact that it is caused by injury to the pancreas which causes the pancreas to produce either very little insulin or no insulin at all. Some of the research have been geared toward stem cells transplant to grow new beta cells which will produce insulin. At this time, that is not available due to safety and ethical issues that are yet unresolved. There is also possibility of pancreas transplant, which is not widely available at thus time.


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