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What is Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
May 06, 2013
4.8 / 5(4 Ratings)

What is Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition is caused by the body attacking its own pancreas with antibodies. The damaged pancreas in people affected with type 1 diabetes doesn't make insulin. This type of diabetes gives rise to many medical risks such as diabetic retinopathy, diabetic neuropathy and diabetic nephropathy. There are even more serious risks of heart disease and stroke.


Symptoms

As the glucose is not used efficiently and spills into the urine, people with untreated Type 1 diabetes develop symptoms such as these mentioned below:


Increased Thirst:  As your blood sugar levels rise, the fluids move out of your cells, and this makes you thirsty. Then as you drink more and more fluids there comes the urge to urinate more than usual and this happens both during the day and as well as night.


Increased Hunger: When you have diabetes, your body becomes inefficient in using glucose in the blood due to the lack of insulin.  You in turn feel hungry as the cells become deprived of an energy source.


Weight Loss: The glucose does not get used efficiently by the body and hence spills into the urine,  causing loss of nutrient from body and weight loss.

 

[Read: Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes in Children]


Other symptoms can be dry and itchy skin, fatigue, and vomiting accompanied by a feeling of nausea.


Causes

Unfortunately, the exact cause of the disease is relatively unknown, but even then it is most likely that it is an autoimmune disorder. It has been found that in most people the body's own immune system which fights harmful bacteria and viruses does mistakenly destroy the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

[Read: Physiological Causes of Type 1 Diabetes]


The type 1 diabetes can occur at any age. However, the disease is most often diagnosed in children, adolescents, or young adults.


Risk Factors

There aren’t many risk factors for type 1 diabetes, however, researches are on the lookout for possible connections. Some of the possible risk factors include the following:

  • A family history – Those who have a parent or a sibling with type 1 diabetes have an increased risk of developing this condition.
  • Genetics – Sometimes, you will find the presence of certain genes that would indicate an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes. Genetic testing can be done through clinical testing in order to determine the family history of type 1 diabetes in some cases.
  • Geography – It has also been found that the incidence of type 1 diabetes tends to increase as you travel away from the equator. People living in Finland and Sardinia have the highest incidence of type 1 diabetes.
  • Viral exposure – If a person gets exposed to epstein-Barr virus, coxsackievirus, mumps virus or cytomegalovirus, he/she may trigger the autoimmune destruction of the islet cells or the virus may directly infect the islet cells.
  • Early vitamin D – There have been researches that suggest that vitamin D may be protective against type 1 diabetes. If one drinks cow’s milk at an early age, which is a common source of vitamin D, then the risk of type 1 diabetes tends to rise.


Treatment

The aim of the treatment for type 1 diabetes is to maintain a normal blood glucose level and delay or prevent complications due to high blood glucose. The treatment generally aims to keep blood sugar levels between 80 and 120 mg/dL (4.4 to 6.7 mmol/L) in the daytime and between 100 and 140 mg/dL (5.6 to 7.8 mmol/L) during night. Therefore, you must understand that the treatment of type 1 diabetes is basically a lifelong commitment to taking insulin, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy foods and monitoring the blood sugar levels.


There are various types of insulin, namely, fast acting insulin, regular insulin, intermediate insulin, long lasting insulin, combinations, and insulin pens.


Prognosis

People with type 1 diabetes generally adjust quickly to the time and attention that is needed to monitor blood sugar, treat the disease and maintain a normal lifestyle. As time goes by, the risk of complications is substantial, but can be reduced greatly if blood glucose levels are strictly monitored and controlled.

Expected Duration

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease and therefore, those people with type 1 diabetes need regular checkups, careful daily monitoring of blood sugar levels, and insulin treatment throughout their lives.


A small number of people with diabetes who require kidney transplants because of severe kidney damage from the disease can become exceptions to this rule. That's because a pancreas transplant occasionally can be performed at the same time that a kidney transplant is done. Since the new pancreas can make insulin, this can cure the diabetes. Because organ transplantation requires people to take medicines that suppress the immune system for the rest of their lives, pancreas transplant is not a treatment that is recommended by itself (it is only recommended for people who must have another organ transplanted, who will already require those medications long-term).

Medical Advice


You must call your health care professional if you experience a sudden increase in thirst and urination, with or without vomiting, nausea, fatigue or confusion. Unexplained weight loss always should be reported to a physician.


If you or your child have type 1 diabetes, see your doctor regularly (as your doctor advises) to make sure that you are keeping good control of your blood sugar, and to be checked for early signs of complications such as heart disease, eye problems and skin infections. Your doctor most likely will suggest that you also visit other specialists regularly, such as a podiatrist to check your feet and an ophthalmologist to check your eyes for signs of diabetes complications.

Prevention

Like much of its causes, there's no known way to prevent the type 1 diabetes, although researchers are working on preventing the disease or further destruction of the islet cells in people who are newly diagnosed.

 

Read more articles on Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

 

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