What is Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is a serious condition that occurs when the body cannot produce insulin naturally. Without this important hormone, the body is unable to convert glucose (sugar) from food into usable energy to keep it functioning normally.
According to Diabetes Australia, Type 1 diabetes accounts for 10 – 15 per cent of cases around the country and typically occurs in people under 30 years of age, with the majority diagnosed during childhood.
Type 1 diabetes is commonly referred to as an auto-immune disease because the body’s immune system mistakenly believes certain insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are foreign and destroys them.
What causes Type 1 Diabetes?
It is still not known what causes this auto-immune reaction. There is currently no cure for Type 1 diabetes and it cannot be prevented.
Unlike Type 2 diabetes, the cause of Type 1 is not linked to any modifiable lifestyle factors. Rather it requires close monitoring and daily management to ensure blood glucose levels stay within a healthy range. There are serious consequences for people with diabetes if their glucose levels drop too low, or if they soar too high.
What are the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes?
The symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes are typically more sudden than Type 2 and may include:
- Sudden or unexplained weight loss
- Passing more urine
- Constant thirst
- Tiredness and lethargy
- Blurred vision
- Slow healing times for cuts
- Skin infections or itchiness
Managing Type 1 Diabetes
People with Type 1 diabetes must test their blood glucose levels several times throughout the day and use insulin injections (or an insulin pump) to help manage their condition.
One of the biggest challenges for diabetics is working out exactly how much insulin they need. The amount required is based on variable factors such as food, exercise, stress levels and emotional health which fluctuate throughout the day.
- If the body has too much insulin, it tends to burn lots of glucose and blood sugar levels drop too low. This is called hypoglycaemia and requires the person to eat or drink something sugary. Hypoglycaemia is potentially life-threatening because if left untreated it can result in coma.
- On the other hand, without enough insulin the body’s cells are starved of the energy they need to operate normally and glucose levels in the blood rise. This is called hyperglycemia and can lead to long- term complications. In this situation, the body tends to burn its own fat store (instead of the glucose from food) which releases a dangerous chemical substance (Ketones) that accumulate in the body and can be life-threatening.
If Type 1 diabetes is not managed properly, the high level of sugar in the blood can lead to long-term damage of the vital organs and body parts such as the eyes, kidneys, nerves and the heart.