Diabetes type 1

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Overview

If you have type 1 diabetes, your pancreas doesn’t make insulin or makes very little insulin. Insulin helps blood sugar enter the cells in your body for use as energy. Without insulin, blood sugar can’t get into cells and builds up in the bloodstream. High blood sugar is damaging to the body and causes many of the symptoms and complications of diabetes.


Type 1 diabetes was once called insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes. It usually develops in children, teens, and young adults, but it can happen at any age.


Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2—about 5-10% of people with diabetes have type 1. Currently, no one knows how to prevent type 1 diabetes, but it can be treated successfully by:


Following your doctor’s recommendations for living a healthy lifestyle.

Managing your blood sugar.

Getting regular health checkups.

Getting diabetes self-management education and support.

For Parents

If your child has type 1 diabetes—especially a young child—you’ll handle diabetes care on a day-to-day basis. Daily care will include serving healthy foods, giving insulin injections, and watching for and treating hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). You’ll also need to stay in close contact with your child’s health care team. They will help you understand the treatment plan and how to help your child stay healthy.


Much of the information that follows applies to children as well as adults. You can also visit JDRF’s T1D Resourcesexternal icon for more information on managing your child’s type 1 diabetes.


Symptoms

Type 1 diabetes symptoms can appear suddenly and may include:

Feeling more thirsty than usual.

Urinating a lot.

Bed-wetting in children who have never wet the bed during the night.

Feeling very hungry.

Losing weight without trying.

Feeling irritable or having other mood changes.

Feeling tired and weak.

Having blurry vision.

Causes

Type 1 diabetes occurs when your immune system, the body's system for fighting infection, attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. Scientists think type 1 diabetes is caused by genes and environmental factors, such as viruses, that might trigger the disease.

Type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake). This reaction destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin, called beta cells. This process can go on for months or years before any symptoms appear.

Some people have certain genes (traits passed on from parent to child) that make them more likely to develop type 1 diabetes. However, many of them won’t go on to have type 1 diabetes even if they have the genes. A trigger in the environment, such as a virus, may also play a part in developing type 1 diabetes. Diet and lifestyle habits don’t cause type 1 diabetes.

Risk factors

Risk factors for type 1 diabetes

Family history. Your risk increases if a parent or sibling has type 1 diabetes.

Environmental factors. Circumstances such as exposure to a viral illness likely play some role in type 1 diabetes.

The presence of damaging immune system cells (autoantibodies). ...

Geography.

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Complications

Complications

Heart and blood vessel disease. Diabetes increases the risk of some problems with the heart and blood vessels. ...

Nerve damage (neuropathy). ...

Kidney damage (nephropathy). ...

Eye damage. ...

Foot damage. ...

Skin and mouth conditions. ...

Pregnancy complications.

Prevention

Currently, no one knows how to prevent type 1 diabetes, but it can be treated successfully by: Following your doctor's recommendations for living a healthy lifestyle. Managing your blood sugar. Getting regular health checkups.

Cut sugar and refined carbohydrates from your diet. Eating foods high in refined carbohydrates and sugar increases blood sugar and insulin levels, which may lead to diabetes over time. ...

Quit smoking if you are a current tobacco user. ...

Watch your portions. ...

Aim for 30. ...

Drink water. ...

Eat fiber.

Taking insulin.

Carbohydrate, fat and protein counting.

Frequent blood sugar monitoring.

Eating healthy foods.

Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight.