Type 1 diabetes (formerly called insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes) is a metabolic disorder that occurs when the little to no insulin is produced by the pancreas causing blood sugar (glucose) levels to rise (hyperglycemia).
Glucose is the body’s main source of energy, and the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin that helps convert glucose from the food you eat into energy your body uses.
There is no cure for type 1 diabetes. It is an autoimmune condition, which means it is chronic and will need to be managed for the rest of your life.
What Are Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes?
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes can develop over a few weeks or months, can be severe, and may include:
- Increased/frequent urination, especially at night
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger
- Blurred vision
- Sores/cuts/bruises that do not heal or heal slowly
- Frequent infections
- Darkened skin, often in the armpits and neck
- Dry skin
- Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
- Unexplained weight loss
- Stomach pain
What Causes Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is believed to be caused by an autoimmune reaction in which the body attacks itself and destroys beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin.
Risk factors for developing type 1 diabetes include:
- Genetics/family history
- Age: more likely to occur in children, teens, and young adults, though it can develop at any age
- Triggers, such viruses
- Ethnicity: Caucasians are more likely to develop type 1 diabetes than African Americans and Hispanic/Latino Americans
Type 1 diabetes is not caused by diet or lifestyle factors.
What Is the Treatment for Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is treated with lifestyle modifications and medications when needed.
Lifestyle changes to manage type 1 diabetes include:
- Manage A1C (average blood glucose level over the past 3 months)
- Check blood glucose levels daily
- Keep blood pressure in check
- Maintain healthy cholesterol levels
- Don’t smoke
- Follow a diabetes meal plan as recommended by your doctor or nutritionist
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean poultry and fish, and low-fat dairy
- Drink plenty of water
- Chose foods that are low-calorie, low-fat, low-sugar, and low-salt
- Exercise regularly
- Get adequate sleep
- Manage stress/practice relaxation techniques
- Take prescribed diabetes medications
Medications used to treat type 1 diabetes include:
- People who have type 1 diabetes need to take insulin shots or wear an insulin pump every day to manage blood sugar levels
- Biguanides such as metformin (Fortamet, Glucophage, Glucophage XR, Glumetza, and Riomet)
- Amylin analog such as pramlintide acetate (Symlin)
- Blood pressure medications
- Cholesterol medications
If lifestyle changes and medications are insufficient, other treatments for type 1 diabetes may include:
- Weight-loss surgery (bariatric surgery) for certain patients who are obese
- Artificial pancreas