What is Type 1 diabetes? 

Once known as juvenile diabetes, Type 1 diabetes isn't just a childhood disease. Now, more adults have Type 1 diabetes than children. This condition affects 1.25 million Americans overall. It's also much less common than Type 2 diabetes.

In Type 1 diabetes, your body is unable to produce insulin. This is a hormone your body uses to move the blood sugar you produce from food into your cells. This is how your body gets energy. You may be able to manage this life-long condition and live a normal, active life.

Causes of Type 1 diabetes

Doctors don't fully understand what causes this condition. Usually, your immune system attacks harmful organisms like bacteria that shouldn't be in your body. For an unknown reason, your immune system can start attacking healthy parts of your body. This process damages those body parts and can make them not work right. With Type 1 diabetes, your immune system can attack and damage the cells that make insulin. This keeps you from making the hormone. Other factors that may play a role in getting Type 1 Diabetes include:

  • Your genes
  • Some viruses or other environmental conditions
  • Race (it's more common in Caucasians than African-Americans)

Risk factors for Type 1 diabetes

Researchers have been unable to determine the cause of Type 1 diabetes. When you have this condition, your body's immune system destroys the cells in your pancreas. This is the organ that produces insulin. There are genetic links. This means you might be more likely to develop this condition if your parents have it. Also, some viruses may play a role in Type 1 diabetes.

Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes may cause substantial dehydration. All the extra sugar your body isn't processing is exiting your body through your urine. You might end up having to go to the bathroom more often. Because your urine may also include some unprocessed calories, it's common to lose weight.

Other symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes include:

  • Feeling tired
  • Breathing heavily
  • Having stomach pain
  • Feeling nauseous and vomiting
  • Getting infections of the skin or urinary tract
  • Having fruit-scented breath, which may also indicate a serious emergency

Diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes

If you have any of the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes, your doctor will order a blood test to check your blood sugar levels. You may also give a urine sample to check your blood sugar or the chemicals that your body produces when you can't make insulin. There's currently no way to prevent Type 1 diabetes.

Treatments for Type 1 diabetes

Just 5% of people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes. It's a condition that you may be able to manage to live a long, healthy life. Treatment is a four-step lifestyle process. It includes controlling your blood sugar, exercising, eating the right food and finding support.

Nonsurgical treatments for Type 1 Diabetes include the following:

  • Exercise can help to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Your doctor may recommend that you stay active and fit.
  • Working with a dietician can help you understand what kinds of foods keep your blood sugar stable. You may get a food plan based on your own lifestyle and activity levels. This plan can change over time. 
  • Because your body can't create insulin, you need to give yourself (or your child) injections using insulin pens or syringes. You can also do these through an insulin pump. You need to monitor your blood sugar levels. Work closely with your doctor to learn how to maintain healthy levels throughout the day. 

At first, a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes may feel overwhelming. With time you may find that you're able to manage your condition and live an active, healthy life. Finding a support group can help you answer questions you may have. You can meet people who understand the challenges you face when managing your condition. Look for online support groups if there are none that meet in hospitals or community centers in your area.

Recovery from Type 1 diabetes

There is no recovery from Type 1 diabetes. You'll probably get used to your daily treatment though. It can become a normal part of your life. With the help of your doctor, your family and a supportive community or group, you can gain the skills and knowledge you need to stay healthy.

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