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Type 1 diabetes is a disease that affects your body’s ability to regulate blood glucose (sugar) levels—there are various types of diabetes, which you can read more about in our other diabetes condition centers. This type of diabetes is often referred to as juvenile diabetes, because of its tendency to develop during childhood or adolescence, type 1 diabetes can actually develop at any age. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin, a hormone that allows for the movement of sugar (food) into the body’s cells, resulting in dangerously high levels of glucose in the blood that the body cannot convert into energy. This is thought to be caused by the body’s immune cells mistakenly attacking and destroying the insulin-producing Islet cells of the pancreas, though research on the exact cause is still ongoing.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation reports that as many as three million American have type 1 diabetes. The number of children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the U.S. each year is more than 15,000. Of the people in the U.S. who are living with type 1 diabetes, 85% are adults and 15% are children. The prevalence of type 1 diabetes in children and teens between 2001 and 2009 increased by 23%.
Lowered insulin levels are the underlying cause of all diabetes. Insulin is produced by the Islet cells of the pancreas, which then circulate it to your body via the blood stream. In the presence of insulin, glucose (sugar) is able to transfer from the blood stream into the body cells, lowering the blood glucose level and providing the body’s cells with fuel for energy. In diabetic patients, there are several factors that can interfere with this process.
In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks and destroys Islet cells, lowering the amount of insulin produced and circulated in the body and blocking the transfer of glucose from the bloodstream to bodily cells. The cause of this defect is still unknown, though researchers suspect that genetics and/or exposure to particular viruses may contribute.
The risk factors for the developing juvenile diabetes differ from person to person, but there are a number of things that have been shown to increase risk. Below are the possible risk factors for Type 1 diabetes:
Diabetes can be diagnosed by measuring blood glucose levels. Consistently high blood glucose levels, combined with symptoms of fatigue, excessive thirst, and frequent urination indicate the lack of insulin and/or insulin resistance associated with diabetes.
The following tests can be used to determine blood glucose levels:
– – When the blood sugar is higher than 240 mg/dL
– – During an illness such as pneumonia, heart attack, or stroke
– – When nausea or vomiting occur
– – During pregnancy
The process that destroys insulin-producing cells can take years and may not initially cause any symptoms. Researchers are still investigating what triggers this process, and why it is delayed for some and not for others. Regardless of when the process begins, once insulin production completely stops, type 1 diabetes usually appears suddenly and progresses quickly.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and think you may have diabetes, talk to your doctor.
Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease for which there is no cure. However, careful monitoring of blood glucose levels and insulin injections can prevent or delay diabetes complications, and most patients with diabetes are able to lead normal, healthy lives. Complications can arise for even the most prudent of diabetes patients, so regular visits to the doctor are recommended. Thanks to advances in research and technology, the prognosis of patients with type 1 diabetes has improved considerably over the last 50 years.
When you maintain a healthy lifestyle, you are helping to control your diabetes.
Here are eight tips for living well with Type 1 diabetes:
Screening for type 1 diabetes is not a regular practice, as the symptoms present themselves rapidly and the disease is usually diagnosed and treated soon after symptoms appear.
There are no proven ways to prevent type 1 diabetes, however with proper attention to your condition and blood glucose levels, you should be able to prevent the symptoms from interfering with daily life.
The treatment for diabetes can vary from type to type. Below are the main medications for each type of diabetes:
Insulin is the primary medication used to treat type 1 diabetes. Up until the 1980s, medical grade insulin was made from purified pig or cow insulin. Today, medical grade insulin is made in laboratories using genetic recombinant technology to allow pancreatic cells in laboratory cultures to produce insulin.
There are four different types of insulin that can be taken. These are:
Insulin is administered by injection several times throughout the day so that it can avoid the digestive enzymes of the stomach, which would otherwise destroy it. Insulin injections come in the form of:
Other treatments include:
There are several treatments that have been proven to be effective and safe complementary treatments. These include:
According to The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is no evidence that herbal supplements can help to control diabetes or its complications despite several studies that have attempted to prove their worth.
Herbal supplements that have not yet been proven to be effective, but are sometimes put forth as helpful, are:
Research on several of the above remedies is ongoing as the alternative medicine community searches for effective diabetes treatment methods.
Many people with diabetes live happy, healthy lives.
In order to keep your symptoms in check and your blood glucose levels within range, follow these tips:
There’s no juvenile or type 1 diabetes diet – contrary to popular thinking. Your child will need plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – foods high in nutrition, and low in both fat and calories. Your child’s nutritionist will likely recommend that your child – along with the rest of the family – make the conscious choice to consume fewer animal products and refined sweets. While sugary foods are OK every once in a while, they should be limited, and budgeted into your child’s meal plan, particularly for special occasions. A registered dietitian can be a great member of your team – advising on everything from what foods are best for your child, how much, recipes and food sources, lifestyle and more. There are some places in which greater vigilance is needed; particularly with foods that have high fat content – because fat slows digestion, and foods with high sugar content as they affect insulin directly. Each individual processes food differently, with your nutritionist you can build a plan that works best for you and your child.
While everyone needs regular exercise, children with type 1 diabetes are no exception – but remember that physical activity often lowers blood sugar, sometimes affecting levels for up to 12 hours after exercise. Check your child’s blood sugar more often than usual after more vigorous exercise or starting a new activity to learn how his or her body reacts. You may need to adjust your child’s meal plan or insulin dose to compensate. Do encourage your child to do all sports that kids non-type-1 dis do – anything from ballet to basketball to swimming. If it’s fun, they’re more likely to participate! Incorporate movement and physical activity into part of your child’s daily routine.
BUILDING FELXIBILITY INTO YOUR PLAN
Even with a careful insulin schedule, sugar levels in your child’s blood can vary unpredictably at times. With help from your child’s diabetes treatment team, you’ll learn what might trigger blood sugar level changes so that you can be prepared. Here are some possible triggers to be mindful of:
If you suspect that you have diabetes or you find that you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms of diabetes, you should talk to your doctor. He or she will be able to run the proper diagnostic tests and determine whether or not diabetes is causing your symptoms.
If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, call your doctor immediately if:
— Shakiness and weakness
— Extreme hunger and slight nausea
— Dizziness and headache
— Blurred vision
Call 911 emergency services right away if you have symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) a life-threatening condition that develops when the body is not getting enough insulin. These include:
If you suspect you have diabetes, schedule a visit with your Primary Care Physician (PCP) for a complete physical to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. Your doctor will then give you referrals to specialists. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), your diabetic care team should include a:
To find a specialist in your area, search on the Healthgrades web site. Here are links to articles on ThirdAge.com about this service:
Healthgrades: Find the Best Healthcare for You
Healthgrades 2014 Hospital Quality Report
Visit the American Association of Diabetes Educators online for more information on diabetes experts in your area
If you receive a diabetes diagnosis, you may want to ask your doctor the following questions:
If you suspect you may be at risk for diabetes, you may want to ask the following:
November is Diabetes Awareness Month. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) its mission is to raise awareness of this growing disease. Nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes.
To learn more about diabetes:
National Diabetes Education Program (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health) National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The program’s goal is to improve the treatment of people with diabetes, to promote early diagnosis, and to prevent the development of diabetes. You can find information about the program here.
For a directory of doctors and experts:
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