Understanding Type 1 Diabetes

By Elizabeth Smoots, MD

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas makes little or no insulin. The hormone insulin is needed to move glucose into body cells where it can be burned for energy. But if this does not happen normally, type 1 diabetes can result. It usually begins in childhood, though adults can sometimes develop this autoimmune disorder.

The most common symptoms of type 1 diabetes: increased thirst, frequent urination, severe hunger, unexpected weight loss and fatigue. Weakness, irritability, mood changes and blurred vision can also occur. Bedwetting may begin in children who usually do not wet the bed.

The cause? In type 1 diabetes the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, an organ in the abdomen that helps convert food into fuel. Viruses or environmental factors can trigger the condition. It’s more likely to occur in people with certain genes or a family history (parent or sibling) of the disease.

See your health care provider right away if you develop symptoms of type 1 diabetes. Treatment usually involves monitoring glucose levels, taking insulin and following a supportive eating and exercise plan.

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