What Is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease. People with type 1 have high levels of glucose in their blood. Glucose is a natural sugar that your body uses as a source of energy. It is obtained from food. Extra glucose is stored in the liver and muscle tissues. It is released when extra energy is needed, such as between meals or when sleeping.

Insulin is the hormone that helps glucose enter cells. It is produced by the pancreas. In healthy individuals, the pancreas releases insulin whenever glucose levels rise. This doesn’t happen in people with type 1 diabetes. They need to take injections of insulin to help them process glucose.

Type 1 diabetes is a manageable, chronic condition. However, failing to control your blood sugar properly can be very dangerous. In rare cases, complications can even be fatal.

What Causes Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the beta cells of the pancreas. These are the cells that create insulin. People with type 1 diabetes cannot make enough insulin to control their blood sugar.

The reasons why the immune system attacks beta cells are unknown.

Who Is at Risk for Type 1 Diabetes?

Risk factors for type 1 diabetes are poorly understood. However, some factors have been tentatively identified.

Heredity may be important in some cases of type 1 diabetes. If you have a family member with the condition, your risk of developing it is increased. Several genes have been tentatively linked to this condition.

Younger people are more likely to be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This is why the condition is sometimes called “juvenile diabetes.” The most common age of diagnosis is between 11 and 14 years old. It is rarely diagnosed after age 40.

Race may be a risk factor for type 1 diabetes. It is more common in Caucasians than in those of Asian and African descent.

Geography may also play a role in this condition. For some reason, it is more common in countries that are farther from the equator. People in Finland are approximately 300 times more likely to develop type 1 diabetes than those in the United States.

What Are the Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes?

The following symptoms may be signs of type 1 diabetes:

  • sudden change in appetite
  • dehydration
  • change in vision
  • fatigue
  • excessive urination
  • dramatic weight change
  • numbness or lack of sensation in the feet

If you have one or more of these symptoms, you should visit your doctor.

How Is Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosed?

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed through a series of tests. These tests are usually performed at least twice. Sometimes a one-time abnormality can be caused by another condition.

Glycated Hemoglobin (A1C) Test

Hemoglobin is the protein that carries oxygen through the blood stream. Blood sugar attaches to hemoglobin as it travels through the body. The hemoglobin A1C test shows a person’s average blood sugar levels for the past few months. It measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to the hemoglobin in the system. A percentage between 5.7 and 6.4 indicates that a person is at risk for type 1 diabetes. A level of 6.5 percent or higher is considered diabetic. This test can also be used to show how well a person with diabetes is controlling their sugars.

Random Blood Sugar Test

This test looks at blood sugar in a random sample. It doesn’t take into account when the person last ate. A non-diabetic will never have blood sugar levels higher than 139 mg/dl.

Fasting Blood Sugar Test

In this test, you fast overnight before having your blood sugar tested. It is more reliable than a random test. A value of less than 100 mg/dL is considered normal. A value of 100 mg/dL to 125 mg/dL indicates pre-diabetes. Someone with a value of 126 mg/dL or a higher is considered diabetic.

How Is Type 1 Diabetes Treated?

Diabetes isn’t treated so much as it is managed. The goal is to regulate your blood sugar. This is done both through insulin treatments and by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin everyday. The insulin is usually administered by injection. However, some people use an insulin pump. The pump injects insulin through a port in their skin. It can be easier for some people than sticking themselves with a needle. It may also level out blood sugar highs and lows.

Insulin needs vary throughout the day. People with type 1 diabetes regularly measure their blood sugar to figure out how much insulin they need. Both diet and exercise can affect blood sugar levels.

Diet and Exercise

People with type 1 diabetes should eat regular meals and snacks to keep blood sugar stable. A dietician can help to establish a healthy, balanced eating plan. Exercise also helps keep blood sugar in check.

Foot Care

Type 1 diabetes can damage the nerves, especially in the feet. Small cuts can quickly turn into severe ulcers and infections. Therefore, diabetes treatment should include regular foot checks. Injuries should be brought to the attention of a doctor.

Complications of Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes can have certain complications. These include:

  • increased heart attack risk
  • eye problems, including blindness
  • nerve pain
  • infections on the skin, especially the feet, that could require amputation in serious cases
  • kidney damage
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol

These complications are more common in people who do not keep their blood sugar under control.

What is the Prognosis for Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes can be managed with proper treatment. Prognosis is good as long as you keep your blood sugar well controlled. If you do not, however, you can develop serious complications (listed above).

It is essential to manage your glucose properly.