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Type 1 Diabetes: What you Should Know

Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, usually assaults children, but can strike adults as well.  What is the definition of this chronic disease? What exactly occurs to bring about type 1 diabetes?  What age group is primarily involved?  What are the symptoms and how is it diagnosed?  These are the questions to be explored.

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Within the realm of diabetes, type 1 diabetes is diagnosed 10 to 15% of the time. Type 1 diabetes simply means that elevated sugar is apparent in the blood because insulin is no longer doing it's required job.  Sugar, also called glucose, is a substance found in plants and animals necessary to sustain life as the energy producer.  Insulin is a hormone manufactured in the pancreas.  The job of insulin is to gather the sugar from the blood and distribute it to cells.  When the pancreas fails to produce insulin, sugar builds up in the blood and the onset of diabetes occurs.   

Who Gets Type 1 Diabetes?

Unfortunately, type 1 diabetes affects approximately 1 out of every 400-500 children.  The odds of acquiring type 1 diabetes as an adult are much less.  Statistics reveal that unlike type 2 diabetes, more Caucasian children are affected than Hispanics or African American children. 

How Does Type 1 Diabetes Happen?

No one knows for certain what causes type 1 diabetes to occur, but there is substantial evidence that there may be a genetic link to the disease.  As an autoimmune disease the belief is that environmental triggers put the wheels in motion that bring about type 1 diabetes.  Whether the beta cells in the pancreas are attacked and destroyed by a virus or allergens is not certain, but the outcome is the same.  Once the beta cells are no longer able to produce insulin, glucose levels rise and type 1 diabetes happens. 

What Are the Symptoms of  Type 1 Diabetes?

It may be more difficult to tell in small children if they have the symptoms, but some of the following will be experienced:

  1. Frequent urination
  2. Overwhelming thirst
  3. A feeling of hunger
  4. Feeling very tired
  5. Loss of weight without trying
  6. Extremely slow healing sores
  7. Dry, itchy skin
  8. Blurred vision
  9. Fruity smelling breath
  10. A feeling of pins and needles in feet
  11. Continual problems with bladder or vaginal infections
  12. Lose of consciousness
  13. Sugar in urine

If any of these symptoms are experienced see a doctor immediately.  Type 1 diabetes is a manageable disease, however undiagnosed it can be fatal. 

How Is Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosed?

The normal range of glucose in the blood is 70 - 120.  This level rises after eating but returns to within a normal range 1 - 2 hours later.  A fasting blood glucose test is the diagnostic tool most often used by physicians if Type 1 diabetes is suspected.  Testing for ketone bodies or glucose in the urine is another test in the diagnostic arsenal that may be used.

Are There Risks or Complications with Type 1 Diabetes?

The most serious risks and diabetes complications occur in undiagnosed and untreated type 1 diabetes, but there are problems that can happen over time. 

  1. Retinopathy or loss of eyesight is a rare event in children before the age of puberty.  However it does happen to adults who have had the disease for 15 or more years.  Although not serious, it is a concern.
  2. Kidney problems become a problem for 35% - 45% of people living with Type 1 diabetes.  Kidney failure or heart disease may become a serious condition. 
  3. Poor blood circulation due to hardening of the arteries may occur after a prolonged amount of time living with the type 1 diabetes.  This complication creates problems with sores healing properly and increased chances of injury.  Nerve damage may also lead to digestive problems such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. 
Although the information looks grim, the reality is that type 1 diabetes is manageable.  People go on to live long, exciting lives filled with love, happy times, adventure, satisfaction and contentment. 

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