Diabetes 1 & 2 | Type 1

Diabetes Type 1

Also called: Insulin-dependent diabetes, juvenile diabetes
Diabetes means your blood glucose, or blood sugar, is too high. With type 1 diabetes, your pancreas does not make insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose get into your cells to give them energy. Without insulin, too much glucose stays in your blood. Over time, high blood glucose can lead to serious problems with your heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves, and gums and teeth.

Type 1 diabetes happens most often in children and young adults but can appear at any age. Symptoms may include

  • Being very thirsty
  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very hungry or tired
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Having sores that heal slowly
  • Having dry, itchy skin
  • Losing the feeling in your feet or having tingling in your feet
  • Having blurry eyesight
  • A blood test can show if you have diabetes. If you do, you will need to take insulin for the rest of your life.

What is Type 1 diabetes?

This is also known as juvenile, early onset, or insulin dependent diabetes. It usually first develops in children or young adults. In the UK about 1 in 250 people develop Type 1 diabetes at some stage.

With Type 1 diabetes the illness usually develops quite quickly, over days or weeks, as the pancreas stops making insulin. It is treated with insulin injections and a healthy diet (see below).

Why does the pancreas stop making insulin?

In most cases, Type 1 diabetes is thought to be an 'auto-immune' disease. The immune system normally makes antibodies to attack bacteria, viruses, and other 'germs'. In auto-immune diseases the immune system makes antibodies against part or parts of the body. If you have Type 1 diabetes you make antibodies that attach to the beta cells in the pancreas. These are thought to destroy the cells that make insulin. It is thought that something triggers the immune system to make these antibodies. The 'trigger' is not known but a popular theory is that a virus triggers the immune system to make these antibodies.

Rarely, Type 1 diabetes is due to other causes. For example, severe inflammation of the pancreas, or surgical removal of the pancreas for various reasons.

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