Only 5% of people with diabetes have been diagnosed with type 1, by far the least common form of the disease1. In this lifelong condition, the pancreas, a large organ behind the stomach, stops producing a hormone known as insulin. Insulin’s job is to break down the carbohydrates you eat and turn them into glucose, or “blood sugar”.
The glucose travels through the bloodstream, providing energy and nourishment. Without insulin to let glucose into the cells, the body is literally starving for energy. Meanwhile, excess glucose can’t be broken down, so it accumulates in the bloodstream where it can cause serious damage.
People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin injections to survive. For this reason, type 1 diabetes is sometimes called “insulin dependent” diabetes.
Because type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children, teens and young adults, it also used to be known as “juvenile diabetes”.
Scientists are still working to identify the exact cause of type 1 diabetes, but it is classified as an “autoimmune disease”. In most people with this form of the diabetes, the body's own immune system starts destroying the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Several factors may contribute to this, including genetics and certain viruses.
Once the pancreas stops producing insulin, the symptoms or type 1 come on very rapidly. These include:
Consult your doctor right away if you, or your child, develop any of these symptoms.
Type 1 diabetes has to be managed so it doesn’t damage your body over time. Uncontrolled blood sugar can cause a variety of serious complications:
While type 1 diabetes has no cure, with proper care, people can travel well through life with type 1 diabetes. This requires a combination of insulin, blood sugar management, support and education:
Taking steps to manage your diabetes does more than lower your blood glucose and improve your health. It significantly reduces your risk of serious long-term complications and helps build the confidence you need for successful lifelong diabetes management.
The Diabetes Care Program at Marin General Hospital provides a continuum of expert care and resources for diabetes patients, their families, and caregivers. With the proper education, support, and medical supervision, patients can learn to successfully manage their diabetes and live healthier lives.
Click here to listen, as Dr. Linda Gaudiani explains how Marin General Hospital partners with you to help make life with diabetes a full and satisfying journey