Type 1 diabetes is a disorder of the human immune system that makes it difficult for the body to produce insulin. Without insulin, the body cannot convert sugar from food into nutrients for cells. Excess sugar builds up in the blood stream and may eventually cause severe damage to organs and premature death.
Type 1 diabetes is a disease which can strike children and adults suddenly and requires supplemental insulin along with carefully regimented diet and exercise to manage properly.
Type 1 diabetes is generally diagnosed in children, teenagers, or young adults. Scientists do not yet know exactly what causes type 1 diabetes but believe that autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors are involved.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys certain cells in the pancreas, an organ about the size of a hand that is located behind the lower part of the stomach. These cells -- called beta cells -- are contained, along with other types of cells, within small islands of endocrine cells called the pancreatic islets. Beta cells normally produce insulin, a hormone that helps the body move the glucose (i.e., sugar) contained in food into cells throughout the body, which use it for energy. But when the beta cells are destroyed, no insulin can be produced and the glucose stays in the blood instead where it can cause serious damage to all the organ systems of the body.
For this reason, people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin in order to stay alive. This means undergoing multiple injections daily or having insulin delivered through an insulin pump and testing their blood sugar by pricking their fingers six or more times a day to acquire blood samples.
Along with insulin therapy, people with diabetes must also carefully balance their food intake and exercise to help regulate their blood sugar levels, in an attempt to avoid hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemic (high blood sugar) reactions, which can be life threatening.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic health condition which can present many challenges. Learning how to meet those challenges is a process—it doesn't happen all at once and it may take some work. Understanding more about type 1 diabetes, and doing your part to manage it, can help you take health challenges in stride. Many people find that taking an active part in the care of a chronic health condition helps them to feel stronger and better-equipped to deal with life's trials and tribulations.
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Warning signs of type 1 diabetes include:
If you or a loved one is experiencing one or more of the symptoms from the list above, you should consult your doctor immediately. Type 1 diabetes can be life threatening.Help JDRF Fund Research to Prevent Type 1 Diabetes >