What is Type 1 Diabetes?

This article explains what Type 1 diabetes is.





Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition where your blood glucose level is too high because the body can't make a hormone called insulin. In Type 1 diabetes the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin. It is an autoimmune response where the immune system, normally involved in fighting infection, forms an abnormal response against the pancreas gland. It is not a result of poor diet or related to lifestyle.

Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes

The main symptoms of diabetes are:

  • Increased thirst
  • Going to the toilet all the time - especially at night
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Weight loss
  • Genital itching or regular episodes of thrush
  • Blurred vision
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Breathing changes

People with undiagnosed or poorly controlled Type 1 diabetes will have significant weight loss because of;

  1. fluid loss, loss of calories in passing glucose in urine,
  2. fat tissue and protein breakdown, mainly from muscle, as an alternative energy source.

This can lead to vomiting, dehydration and drowsiness. If insulin is not given diabetic ketoacidosis coma will develop and could prove to be fatal.

People with Type 1 diabetes need injections of insulin for the rest of their lives. Insulin cannot be taken orally because it is destroyed by the digestive juices in the stomach. Insulin regimes are tailored to meet individual needs. This is why some people may need 2 injections per day and others may need up to 4 or more. Education and ongoing support from local diabetes teams are provided. Insulin is not a cure but a very successful treatment.

The cause is at present unknown and there is nothing that can be done to prevent Type 1 diabetes from happening.  Approximately 10% of people living with diabetes in the UK have Type 1 diabetes, it is usually diagnosed in childhood or young adulthood but can develop at any age. 

The majority (90%) of individuals with Type 1 diabetes mellitus have no family history of diabetes therefore risk of other members of the family developing Type 1 is low.

Scientists have identified certain genes which increase an individual’s risk of developing Type 1 however scientists are also researching into other contributing factors. They are looking into environmental triggers such as viral illness and toxins.

For more information on Type 1 diabetes:

For treatment of Type 1 diabetes: Insulin Injection technique, Insulin Information, DKA Ketosheet, Hypoglycemia.

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