What Is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes or T1D as we call it, is a condition in which your immune system destroys insulin-making cells in your pancreas. These are called beta cells.

Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms

Signs are often subtle, but they can become severe. They include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Increased hunger (esp. after eating)
  • Dry mouth
  • Upset stomach and vomiting
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss, even though you’re eating and feel hungry
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Heavy, laboured breathing
  • Frequent infections of your skin, urinary tract, or vagina
  • Crankiness or mood changes
  • Bedwetting in a child who’s been dry at night

Signs of an emergency with type 1 diabetes include:

  • Shaking and confusion
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fruity smell to your breath
  • Belly pain
  • Loss of consciousness (rare)

Type 1 Diabetes Causes

Insulin is a hormone that helps move sugar, or glucose, into your body’s tissues. Your cells use it as fuel.  Damage to beta cells from type 1 diabetes throws the process off. Glucose doesn’t move into your cells because insulin isn’t there to do the job. Instead, it builds up in your blood, and your cells starve. This causes high blood sugars, which can lead to:

  • Dehydration – When there’s extra sugar in your blood, you pee more. That’s your body’s way of getting rid of it. A large amount of water goes out with that urine, causing your body to dry out.
  • Weight loss. The glucose that goes out when you pee takes calories with it. That’s why many people with high blood sugar lose weight. Dehydration also plays a part.
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). If your body can’t get enough glucose for fuel, it breaks down fat cells instead. This creates chemicals called ketones. Your liver releases the sugar it stores to help out. But your body can’t use it without insulin, so it builds up in your blood, along with the acidic ketones. This mix of extra glucose, dehydration, and acid buildup is known as ketoacidosis and can be life-threatening if not treated right away.
  • Damage to your body. Over time, high glucose levels in your blood can harm the nerves and small blood vessels in your eyes, kidneys and heart.

PS. There’s no way to prevent type 1 diabetes so if you get it or have it, welcome to the club.

Type 1 Diabetes Treatment

People who have type 1 diabetes can live long, healthy lives. You’ll need to keep a close eye on your blood sugar levels. Your doctor will give you a range that the numbers should stay within. Adjust your insulin, food, and activities as necessary.

Everyone with T1D needs to use insulin to control their blood sugar via injection or pump.

Several types of insulin are available.

  • Rapid-acting starts to work in about 15 minutes. It peaks about 1 hour after you take it and continues to work for 2 to 4 hours.
  • Regular or short-acting gets to work in about 30 minutes. It peaks between 2 and 3 hours and keeps working for 3 to 6 hours.
  • Intermediate-acting won’t get into your bloodstream for 2 to 4 hours after your shot. It peaks from 4 to 12 hours and works for 12 to 18 hours.
  • Long-acting takes several hours to get into your system and lasts about 24 hours.

Type 1 Diabetes Complications

Type 1 diabetes can lead to other problems, especially if it isn’t well-controlled, so make sure you

  • Do your best to keep your blood sugar under control.
  • Eat well and exercise.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Take care of your feet and teeth.
  • Have regular medical, dental, and vision exams.