Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, making it difficult to control blood sugar levels. It's rarer than type 2 diabetes and accounts for about 5 percent of all diabetes cases. It used to be called "juvenile-onset diabetes" because it often occurs in children and young adults, though it can occur in adulthood, as well.
Unlike type 2 diabetes, nothing can be done to prevent type 1 diabetes, which is thought to be caused by some combination of genetic factors and environmental triggers. It occurs when the immune system attacks the pancreas and destroys insulin-producing cells.
The hormone insulin is pivotal in allowing sugar to leave the blood stream and enter the cells. Without it, the sugar simply builds up in the blood, and cells in the body are gradually starved of the food they need to operate.
Warning signs for type 1 diabetes include drowsiness, weight loss, vision changes, extreme thirst, frequent urination, heavy breathing and loss of consciousness. They can come on quite suddenly and can lead to problems all over the body, including the nerves, kidneys, eyes and heart. Undiagnosed or untreated type 1 diabetes can lead to coma and even death.
The treatment for type 1 diabetes consists of regular doses of insulin. The amount and regularity of these doses will vary somewhat from person to person. The most common method of delivering insulin is via injection, with a syringe, but other methods also can be used, including pumps that are connected to the body and diffusers. Occasionally, people with type 1 diabetes may require other medications to manage their blood sugar or to help with complications that can arise from having type 1 diabetes.
SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; Diabetes Research Institute Foundation; U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
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