Type 1 diabetes: symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease characterized by high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Glucose levels rise because the body mistakenly attacks healthy cells involved in the production of insulin , a hormone that controls the absorption of glucose by cells that use it to power all bodily functions, including mental function. For this reason, type 1 diabetes can lead to health complications, from vision loss to limb amputation.

Insulin helps transport glucose from the bloodstream via glucose transporters.


Since glucose cannot reach the cells of your body and instead accumulates in the bloodstream, your body is thrown into a crisis. The most common symptoms associated with type 1 are:

  • Exhausted
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Constant thirst despite drinking fluids.
  • Strong need for hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes in children

Type 1 was previously called juvenile diabetes because the disease often affects children and adolescents. Symptoms of the disease in children usually look like this:

  • Wetting the bed frequently
  • Weightloss
  • Severe hunger
  • Frequent thirst
  • Fatigue or mood swings

These symptoms are easy to understand if you understand that your body is lacking glucose. Hunger, weight loss, and fatigue are symptoms of the body's inability to use glucose for energy. Frequent urination and thirst come from your body which does its best to remove excess glucose by pouring it into the bladder.

Ron Levin / Getty Images

Type 1 versus type 2

The biggest difference between the two types of diabetes ( there is more ) is insulin production. In type 1, insulin production is reduced and can stop completely. In type 2 , the pancreas continues to produce insulin, but this is not enough to maintain glucose balance . It is also possible that the pancreas produces enough insulin, but the body uses it poorly (this is called insulin resistance ), most often due to being overweight. The vast majority of people diagnosed with diabetes are type 2.


Although anyone can get type 1 diabetes, this type of diabetes is most often diagnosed in children and adolescents. It is estimated that about 15,000 children and adolescents in the United States develop type 1 each year. Children of white, non-Hispanic, African American, and Hispanic ethnic groups are at increased risk for type 1. Children of Native Americans and Pacific Asians People are also at risk for type 1 disease, but are at increased risk of contracting type 2 disease.

Type 1 diabetes can develop in children or adults when the immune system is activated and destroys the cells of the pancreas that are responsible for the production of insulin . It is considered an autoimmune disease. It is not yet clear to researchers why this happens, but it appears that the three most likely culprits are:

  • Genes: there is a family history of diabetes in some
  • Viruses: there is evidence that certain viruses can trigger an immune system response similar to a search and destroy mission; stop the production of insulin in the pancreas
  • Environment: Some researchers suspect that environmental influences, combined with genetic factors, may increase the risk of type 1 diabetes.

While the exact causes are not yet known, we know for a fact that type 1 diabetes is not caused by eating foods that are high in sugar.


Three standard blood tests are typically used to diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes. You may be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes if you meet one of the following criteria

  • Fasting blood glucose (FBG) levels greater than 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg / dL) in two separate tests
  • Random glucose test over 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg / dL) with symptoms of diabetes
  • Hemoglobin A1C levels exceed 6.5% in two separate tests.

When diagnosing type 1 diabetes, two more factors are taken into account: the presence of specific antibodies, such as glutamic acid decarboxylase 65 (GADA) and / or others; and low to normal levels of C-peptide, which is a substance produced in the pancreas along with insulin that can indicate how much insulin your body is producing.

Watch out

The goal of treating type 1 diabetes is to prolong insulin production as long as possible before production stops completely, which is often unavoidable. It is a lifelong disease, but there are many tools and medications available to help with its treatment.

Initially, diet and lifestyle changes can help with blood sugar balance, but since insulin production slows down, you will need insulin injections. The timing of insulin therapy is different for each person. Work with your healthcare team, including your doctor and endocrinologist, to create a personalized treatment plan.

Front facing

There is currently no cure for diabetes . The closest cure for type 1 diabetes is a pancreas transplant . However, this is a risky operation, and transplant recipients must take strong immunosuppressants for the rest of their lives to prevent their bodies from rejecting the new organ. Aside from these risks, there is also a shortage of donors available to meet the demand.

Until a safer and more affordable medicine is found, the goal is to manage diabetes well. Clinical studies have shown that well-controlled diabetes can delay or even prevent many of the potential health complications. In fact, there are some things that a person with type 1 diabetes cannot do when taken seriously. Good management habits include:

Get the word of drug information

You may be surprised, upset, and confused by a type 1 diabetes diagnosis affecting you, your child, or a loved one, but know that help is available. Find a support group online or in your area to connect with others who are experiencing the same emotions and concerns. And while new research is being done every day, there are many management tools and medications on the market today to help you manage your disease and continue to live a healthy and fulfilling life.

Related Articles