Type 1 Diabetes: Symptoms, Causes, Risks, Complications, Drugs & Treatments
Commonly asked questions about Type 1 diabetes:
- What is Type 1 diabetes?
- Type 1 diabetes risk factors
- Type 1 diabetes causes
- Type 1 diabetes complications
- Type 1 diabetes treatments
What Is Type 1 Diabetes?
Previously referred to as juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes, type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition involving the pancreas’ inability to sufficiently produce insulin. Without insulin, the body is unable to allow sugar (glucose) to engage in the production of energy with cells.
Although it has been subjected to millions of dollars of research, there is no known cure for the disease. However, it can still be managed with the proper treatment and lifestyle changes. Advances in modern medicine now allow victims to live long and healthy lives similar to those without type 1 diabetes.
The disease itself is rare in those diagnosed with a form of diabetes with only 5% of diabetes victims suffering from type 1. While this form of diabetes may be rare, it’s tendency to disproportionately effect children makes it a concerning disease.
Unlike type 2 diabetes, the development of type 1 diabetes is not related to the actions or lifestyle of the afflicted. A blood test is used to determine if you have diabetes, a later blood test called the A1C will be administered later to determine the quality in which you are managing your diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes Risk Factors
Who Is At Risk Of Getting Type 1 Diabetes?
Currently there are no definitive factors or demographics that constitute a definitive risk factor leading up to type 1 diabetes. But there are some that are heavily connected to the disease.
Family history and genes are among the most commonly cited factors that can allow medical professionals to determine if a patient is at a high risk of developing type 1 diabetes. Those who have parents or siblings with the disease have an increased risk of disease development due to the genetic similarities between themselves and their immediate family.
While medical professionals cannot use the age of a patient to determine that a patient is at risk, peak ages are well documented and allow medical professionals to stay vigilant at certain points in patients lives.
The first of these peaks occur between the ages of four and seven years old with the second peak coming when children are between the ages of ten and fourteen years old. With medical data confirming this correlation between age and type 1 diabetes development, medical professionals know to be vigilant of the symptoms during those periods.
Another major risk factor that has been discovered by medical researchers depends on the geography of the patient. In the case of type 1 diabetes, people living farther from the equator have reported the disease developing at a far greater rate than those near the equator.
Some other unproven or less-researched risk factors include:
- Early Diet (Cows Milk)
- Low Vitamin D Levels
- Born With Jaundice
- Viral Infections
How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Type 1 Diabetes?
Because the unknown cause of type 1 diabetes is believed to be rooted in genetics with influence from other factors, there is currently no definitive way to prevent the development of the disease. While people are unable to take measures that will grant them immunity from contracting the disease, there are ways to prevent or delay the development of additional complications.
The primary way to prevent further complications is to regularly and accurately maintain a blood sugar level within a target range determined by your doctor. To ensure that you are doing what is necessary, you need to regularly take part in medical checkups to allow you to adapt to changes in the disease development.
The earlier a complication is detected, the greater the chances are that the development may be stunted or even reversed.
Disengaging in certain detrimental activities can also help reduce the risk of complication development with the most effective disengagement involving smoking.
Type 1 Diabetes Causes
How Do I Get Type 1 Diabetes?
Although extensive efforts have been put into researching type 1 diabetes, there has yet to be a discovery indicating the exact cause of the disease. However, it has been determined that genetics, in addition to exposure to viruses and other environmental factors, likely play a major role in the development of the disease.
While the cause of the disease remains unknown, the mechanism of it is very well documented. Immune systems infected with type 1 diabetes mistakenly destroy insulin-producing cells in the pancreas instead of the harmful bacteria and viruses it is meant to.
How Are Insulin And Glucose Effected In Type 1 Diabetes?
As islet cells – insulin-producing cells – are destroyed in significant numbers, the body will become unable to produce the necessary amount of insulin needed for survival.
In those not effected with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas circulates insulin into the bloodstream allowing sugar to enter the appropriate cells. With Insulin allowing sugar to mix with cells,the amount of sugar circulating in your bloodstream decreases to a healthy level – insulin production decreases with the sugar level.
In type 1 diabetes patients, this process is disrupted as there is not enough insulin available in the body to give sugar (glucose) the ability to enter cells. With the process unable to occur, sugar will build up in the bloodstream where it can reach life-threatening levels.
Type 1 Diabetes Complications
Changing your lifestyle once type 1 diabetes has been diagnosed is necessary in order to avoid the development of any additional complications. While the onset of these complications may not be detrimental to ones health, once they have had sufficient development time they may become disabling or life-threatening. The most common and dangerous type 1 diabetes complications include the following:
Heart And Artery Disease
Medical research has indicated that those suffering from type 1 diabetes are at a significantly greater risk of death from cardiovascular complications than non-type 1 diabetes sufferers. One of the deadliest aspects of this development is the inability of medical researchers to offer a definitive reason for this occurrence.
However, some researchers predict that the same autoimmune attacks that destroy insulin-producing cells may be responsible for this. It is hypothesized that when dead and dying cells release proteins after a heart attack, an autoimmune response may result in those proteins being attacked as invaders. With the proteins being neutralized, the recovery process is delayed or debilitated leaving the immune system unable to repair the damage caused by the heart attack.
Nerve Damage (Peripheral Neuropathy)
Major nerve damage is also a common complication for sufferers of type 1 diabetes. With sugar rapidly building up in the bloodstream, the walls of capillaries that run through the legs and nourish nerves can be irreparably damaged. Extensive untreated damage can cause sensations ranging from minor tingling to major pain that can spread from the tips of extremities and spreads through the limb.
As the status of blood sugar spiral out of control, the afflicted may lose all feeling in the affected limbs. In extreme cases, the damage can spread to the gastrointestinal tract and cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.
Kidney Damage (Nephropathy)
Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure, regularly causing nearly 44% of the 100,000 cases of failure each year. While most diabetics do not develop chronic kidney disease to a level of kidney failure, over 180,000 diabetics live with kidney failure.
In addition to the insulin injections, when a person experiences kidney failure they must undergo dialysis or a kidney transplant. While exact statistics regarding kidney failure in diabetics are unknown, those with high blood pressure or high levels of blood glucose are at an increased risk of developing kidney failure.
Because diabetes wreaks havoc on a persons bloodstream, it can at times damage the blood vessels running through the retina. This damage can develop into blindness, cataracts, or glaucoma.
The main eye disease present in type 1 diabetics is diabetic retinopathy. This disease is the advanced stage of retina blood vessel damage and can develop into diabetic macular edema – the swelling of the macula in the retina. Regardless of the type of diabetic eye condition developed, it has the potential to cause major vision problems or loss.
In the event that peripheral neuropathy or poor blood flow develops, a diabetic may be at risk of severe foot damage. With these conditions effecting the foot, it becomes difficult for the body to heal or prevent injuries.
The foot becomes more susceptible to cuts and blisters developing into serious infections due to the bodies inability to effectively heal the wound. If extremity infections heal poorly and are not appropriately treated, the patient may be required to undergo an amputation of the infected area.
High blood sugar levels cannot only be dangerous for a female sufferer of diabetes but also for a baby. The risk of pregnancy complication is increased when diabetes is not properly maintained. These complications could include miscarriage, stillbirth and other birth defects.
For the women carrying the child, diabetes can increase her risk of diabetic ketoacidosis, diabetic eye problems, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure and preeclampsia. Anyone suffering from type 1 diabetes and attempting to get pregnant needs to consult with a doctor to ensure that they have the ability to maintain their health while pregnant.
Type 1 Diabetes Treatments
How Can Type 1 Diabetes Be Treated?
Type 1 diabetes treatment includes several healthy lifestyle changes regarding diet and exercise in addition to regularly taking insulin. In doing so, the type 1 diabetic attempts to maintain a blood sugar level as close to a healthy level as possible. In maintain such a level, the diabetic will be able to minimize the risk of any addition complications developing.
While the necessary steps to diabetes management may seem simple, they can often become overwhelming to diabetics, especially newly diagnosed diabetics. For support regardless of the methods necessary, it is important that you utilize your medical team to offer support and assistance throughout your treatments.
For those suffering from type 1 diabetes, insulin therapy is a lifelong treatment that if properly maintained will assist the afflicted in living a long healthy life. There are multiple types of Insulin, afflicted patients should not take any form of insulin until they have consulted with a doctor who prescribes them the most appropriate form of insulin.
Unlike most treatments, Insulin cannot be taken orally in any form. If insulin is taken orally, the stomach enzymes in the consumers body will interfere and prevent insulin from taking the effect it needs. With insulin being unable to be administered orally, diabetics must pursue other methods to administer insulin.
Insulin injections involve using a fine needle and syringe to inject insulin directly into the body. Injection users typically need to vary the type of insulin used throughout their day to match the necessary requirements to pursue a healthy lifestyle.
These types of insulin include long-acting Lantus or Levemir mixed with a rapid-acting Apidra, Humolog or Novolog among others. These insulin combinations closely mimic the body’s normal use of insulin. These injections are typically administered three or more times per day and can provide an immense boost to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
In addition to self-injections, diabetics can choose to use an insulin pump to automatically administer their needed insulin into the body. These cellphone sized devices are worn on the outside of your body and is comprised of an insulin reservoir and tube that is inserted under your skin of the abdomen. There are also wireless pumps that differ in mechanics but retain the same function.
Pumps are programmed to administer a steady dose of insulin and can replace whatever long-acting insulin the patient previously used. When eating, the pump needs to be programmed with the amount of carbohydrates consumed and your current blood sugar level so the “bolus” dose of insulin can be administered.
In addition to taking insulin and any other prescribed drugs, diabetics should pursue significant lifestyle changes to promote healthy living.
Monitor Blood Sugar
In order to maintain an appropriate blood sugar level, it is important that a record of your blood sugar levels throughout the day are accurately kept. These records should constitute data from before eating, bed, exercising, and driving. By keeping these records, a diabetic will be able to understand what activities can be pursued and must be halted.
While there may be no set diet that all type 1 diabetes sufferers must follow, there are some efforts that all diabetics should pursue to minimize their risk of developing additional diabetic complications. One of the most necessary dietary pursuits for diabetics is to reduce and record the intake of carbs.
In doing so, you will be able to accurately administer the necessary insulin into your body. The primary goal of a type 1 diabetes diet is to consume foods dense with vitamins and minerals but reduce intake of foods dense with fat, sugar, or empty carbohydrates.
Exercising will help you maintain a healthy weight, which will in turn allow you to more effectively combat and control the effects of type 1 diabetes. However, before you pursue exercise you should consult a doctor to understand how your desired exercise method will effect your immune system.
Pursuits can include cardiovascular exercise like running, jogging, elliptical work, cycling, swimming and yoga. These pursuits will lower your blood sugar as your body uses glucose to power itself. Anaerobic pursuits like lifting, sprinting, or circuit training can increase insulin sensitivity.
With exercise effecting the body in different ways, diabetics should consult their doctor to better understand what pursuits will promote healthy living.