Type 1 diabetes (juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes), is a chronic disorder when the pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy. When the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn't produce enough insulin we speak of type 2 diabetes which occurs far more often.
Genetics and exposure to certain viruses are among the various factors which may contribute to type 1 diabetes. It usually appears during childhood or adolescence, but can also begin in adults.
Despite active research, type 1 diabetes has no cure. But it can be managed.
Type 1 diabetes and symptoms can come on quickly and may include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Bedwetting in children
- Extreme hunger
- Unintended weight loss
- Mood changes
- Fatigue and weakness
- Blurred vision
- In females, a vaginal yeast infection
The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. In most people, the body's own immune system mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
When a significant number of islet cells are destroyed, the pancreas will produce little or no insulin. This is the process; the pancreas secretes insulin into the bloodstream, the insulin circulates, enabling sugar to enter the cells, the insulin lowers the amount of sugar in the bloodstream and as the blood sugar level drops, so does the secretion of insulin from the pancreas.
The glucose (sugar) is a main source of energy for the cells that make up muscles and other tissues. It comes from two major sources: food and the liver. Sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, where it enters cells with the help of insulin. The liver stores glucose as glycogen. When the glucose levels are low, such as when you haven't eaten in a while, the liver converts stored glycogen into glucose to keep the glucose level within a normal range.
In type 1 diabetes, there's no insulin to let glucose into the cells, so sugar builds up in the bloodstream, where it can cause life-threatening complications.
The cause of type 1 diabetes is different from the cause of the more familiar type 2 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, the islet cells are still functioning, but the body becomes resistant to insulin or the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin or both.
Some known risk factors for type 1 diabetes include:
- Family history.
Many other possible risk factors for type 1 diabetes have been investigated, though none have been proved.
Type 1 diabetes can affect major organs in the body, the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. Keeping the blood sugar level close to normal most of the time can dramatically reduce the risk of many complications.
Eventually, diabetes complications may be disabling or even life-threatening for the:
- Heart and blood vessel disease.
- Nerve damage
- Kidney damage
- Eye damage.
- Foot damage.
- Skin and mouth conditions.
- Pregnancy complications.
There's no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes.