What is Type 1 Diabetes?: Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Diabetes type 1 may occur at any age; however, it’s more common in children, adolescents and young adults under the age of 40 years.
What is Type 1 Diabetes (T1D)?
T1D is a chronic ailment in which there is a high blood glucose level because the body is unable to produce insulin. It is also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. Insulin hormone is produced by the beta cells located in the pancreas. Insulin is important to move blood glucose into the cells. Excess sugars are stored in the muscle cells and liver; they are used later as a source of energy, particularly between meals or while sleeping. Glucose or sugar is obtained from the foods eaten or consumed.
With juvenile diabetes, the beta cells release little or no insulin. With the absence of insulin hormone, sugars build up in your bloodstream rather than going into the cells. The body is unable to utilize the sugars as a source of energy and this triggers the signs and symptoms of type I diabetes which can trigger short-term or long-term complications. Type II diabetes is more common than insulin dependent diabetes.
Signs and Symptoms of Juvenile Diabetes
The condition develops rapidly over a couple of days or weeks than diabetes type II which may take years before it is diagnosed. Most of the times, T1D symptoms may appear harmless and are often vague. When people experience them, they aren’t worried about the signs since they are mild and usually link them to being busy at work, for example being tired; it is obvious that after a tedious day at work, one will be exhausted. That’s why it’s vital to be vigilant to be able to detect the signs, such as:
- Frequent thirst – after taking a glass of water, you still feel the urge of drinking more water. What is the explanation for this? The tissues and muscles are dehydrated because when blood glucose is elevated, the body pulls fluids from your other tissues to dilute the sugars in the blood stream. The process dehydrates the body and leads to increased thirst.
- Frequent urination– drinking a lot of water triggers more urination, leading to excessive fluid intake which complicates the problem. The body gets rid of the extra glucose through urination and essential calories are lost. A child may start bedwetting at night as a result of juvenile diabetes
- Extreme hunger –one craves to eat more and more. The tissues are deprived of adequate energy as the foods eaten is unable to get into tissues to be used as energy. The muscles and tissues trigger an urge to eat excess food.
- Unexplained weight loss within a short period of time – despite eating more frequently, an individual continues to lose weight. The body doesn’t get adequate energy from the food consumed; hence it utilizes other sources of energy within the body, such as fat and protein stores, consequently leading to weight loss.
- Fatigue – the main source of energy for the body are sugars. Due to diabetes, the body’s inability to convert glucose into energy can prompt fatigue.
- Blurry vision – abnormally high glucose levels interfere with clear vision since fluid can shift into your eyes ducts. The situation corrects itself once the blood sugar levels normalize.
- Infections or wounds take longer to heal – elevated glucose levels have a negative impact on the white blood cells. The role of white blood cells is to aid in wound healing. Therefore, wounds and cuts take a longer time to heal. You are also prone to infections; especially women may experience bladder infections or vaginal yeast infections.
If you experience the above symptoms, no matter how mild they are, visit a health care professional. Young children are at risk of getting insulin diabetes, so, a parent should be watchful for signs of diabetes type 1, if a child starts bed-wetting at night due to increased urination, you can do a blood sugar test at home. If one has juvenile diabetes and doesn’t take adequate liquids to replace the lost fluids, one can become dehydrated. Symptoms of dehydration are dry mouth, increased thirst, warm and dry skin.
It’s not clear what causes T1D . Most likely, it’s an autoimmune disorder; the condition occurs when your immune system (which fights harmful viruses and bacteria) mistakenly attacks and destroys beta cells located in the pancreas. The exact cause of what prompts the immune system to attack the beta cells is unknown. As earlier explained, beta cells are responsible for insulin production. What does this mean? The pancreas is unable to release insulin; hence the glucose can’t be moved from the bloodstream and into the cells. Additionally, insulin dependent diabetes is often inherited, that is, it can run in a family. In other words, the autoimmune reaction is genetic. If a close relative, for example, if a brother, sister or parent has the type 1 diabetes, you are at risk of getting the disease. Autoimmune reaction and genetic are some T1D causes, although there are other possible triggers such as:
- Viral infection – there is a link between juvenile diabetes and a number of different viruses such as enteroviruses which have been studied on widely. The virus has been found in the pancreas and the blood of patients with insulin dependent diabetes.
- Vaccinations – researchers claim that childhood vaccinations may raise the chances of developing diabetes. However, the research is yet to be accepted so that the vaccination schedule can be altered.
- Vitamin D – studies have indicated that individuals with reduced levels of vitamin D have a greater chance of developing diabetes.
- Increased insulin demand – children go through a growth phase in teenage years, which raises the quantity of insulin produced and can stress the beta cells increasing the risk of the immune system destroying the beta cells.
- Early exposure to cow’s milk
- Taking water that contains nitrates
- Being born with jaundice
- If your mother had preeclampsia during pregnancy
- Early or late exposure of gluten and cereal in a baby’s diet
You have the knowledge of diabetes type I symptoms and causes, if you suspect you or a loved one have high blood sugar levels, how is insulin dependent diabetes diagnosed? It is diagnosed through a sequence of tests like a fasting blood glucose test. In this particular test, one fast overnight before blood sugar is tested. If you get a value of less than 100mg/dl you have normal blood sugar levels, a value between 100mg/ dl to 125mg/dl is an indication you have prediabetes. However, if the blood sugar level is above 200mg/dl you have juvenile diabetes. After the diagnoses, you need to seek treatment.
The management of T1D involves:
- Taking insulin – patient with the condition should take insulin daily and it is administered through injections or using an insulin pump. An insulin pump comes in handy for those who fear needles. The amount of insulin to inject varies throughout the day. To determine the amount of insulin you need, you have to measure the blood sugar regularly.
- Carbohydrate counting – it is a technique which helps to keep track of the number of carbs one is taking and manage blood sugar levels. The doctor can assist to set the limit of the number of carbohydrates to eat at each meal.
- Frequent blood monitoring – keep checking the blood sugar levels and record the results at least four times a day, this important because, during the regular clinics, the physician will be able to have a clear picture of the body’s response to the diabetes care plan. It is recommended to check blood sugar levels prior: meals and snacks, going to bed, exercising or driving. Remember to wash the hands before checking the glucose levels.
- Diet – eat healthy foods and snacks regularly to maintain blood glucose levels. Consider having a personal dietitian to help you come up with a healthy balanced eating plan. Request the physician to refer you to a reputable dietician.
- Exercise – physical activity is crucial in diabetes management. It regulates diabetes and delay or prevents long-term complications, particularly heart problems. Exercising daily makes it easier to control blood sugar levels, it increases insulin sensitivity; after the physical activity, the body does not require a lot of insulin to process the carbs, keeps the heart healthy as well as strong and maintains the good cholesterol. Talk to the medical care provider to adjust insulin around exercise as a way of curbing hypoglycemic during work out and to check the body is in good condition before embarking in any form of exercise.
The goal of the treatment for type 1 diabetes is to keep blood glucose levels within the normal range to prevent or delay complications. Diabetes management can be tedious, more so after diagnosis. Take it easy and bear in mind you aren’t alone. Have a close working relationship with the doctor to help in maintaining blood glucose levels as normal as possible.
Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.