Diabetes is diagnosed when the levels of sugar or glucose in the blood are higher than the normal limits. Glucose is derived from our food and is the most important source of energy for the body. It is absorbed from the blood into the cells of the body with the help of a hormone called insulin so that it can be used for energy. However, in some individuals, the body is unable to produce sufficient insulin, which hinders the absorption of glucose into the cells. In such individuals, the level of glucose in the blood increases above normal, and this condition is called diabetes.1
The type of diabetes in which the body is unable to produce insulin is called type 1 diabetes, and it commonly occurs in children or adolescents. It is also known as juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes. In some cases, however, it may also develop in adults.2
What causes diabetes?
The most commonly found cause for juvenile or type 1 diabetes is the body’s own immune system, which fights and destroys cells that produce insulin.3 Genetic and environmental factors also play a role in the occurrence of type 1 diabetes.4
Of the several symptoms of type 1 diabetes, the most commonly observed ones include a constant sensation of thirst and a frequent need to urinate. The individual may also notice feeling extremely hungry, losing weight or having impaired or blurred vision or itchy and dry skin.2
Most doctors run a blood sugar test if such symptoms are observed. Sometimes, a repeat test may be necessary to confirm the results. A test for autoantibodies (antibodies that attack a person’s own body) may also be done for type 1 diabetes. Urine analysis is another test that is often suggested by doctors to check for diabetes.5
Can you treat type 1 diabetes?
Individuals suffering from type 1 diabetes will need to take insulin as their body cannot make insulin. Depending on the individual’s body type and need, the method of administration of insulin may vary. Insulin can be taken via injections, insulin pumps or insulin pens, and sometimes, a medicine may be prescribed in addition to the insulin to supplement the insulin or decrease its dose.1
Apart from extremely high levels of sugar in the blood, individuals with type 1 diabetes are also at risk for hypoglycaemia, which occurs when the levels of blood sugar fall very low. This can occur when the body does not get the kind of diet and activity required to manage diabetes. Hypoglycaemia can be dangerous and should be treated right away.1
The most important consideration for all patients who have type 1 diabetes is to learn how to adapt their lifestyle to the condition. The first step lies in monitoring the levels of glucose carefully and regularly to make sure your blood sugar are within normal limits. In addition to this, you will need to make modifications to your diet and manage your stress by including plenty of exercise, relaxation exercises and rest in your schedule.5
While it must be known that patients with diabetes are prone to several other complications, especially over time and as the individual ages, a large percentage of the population is managing and living productive lives with type 1 diabetes. Some of these complications include heart ailments, damage to the kidneys, eye damage and damage to the nervous system.1
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Type 1 diabetes [Internet]. [updated 2017 Jul; cited 2019 Dec 4]. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/type-1-diabetes.
- MedlinePlus. Diabetes type 1 [Internet]. [updated 2019 Dec 2; cited Dec 4]. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/diabetestype1.html.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. What is diabetes? [Internet]. [updated 2016 Dec; cited 2019 Dec 4]. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes.
- Knip M, Simell O. Environmental triggers of type 1 diabetes. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2012 Jul;2(7):a007690. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a007690.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Type 1 diabetes [Internet]. [updated 2019 May 30; cited 2019 Dec 4]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/type1.html.