Womens Health

Type 1 Diabetes

Diabetes is caused by your body’s inability to turn what you eat into energy due to a lack on insulin. There are two kinds of diabetes: one in which the body is not able to produce any insulin at all (type 1), and the other in which the body’s sensitivity to insulin decreases (type 2). Currently there are some 20 million Americans suffering from diabetes: of those, nearly 1 in 10 has type 1 diabetes, which mostly occurs in individuals below the age of 30.

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

This kind of diabetes was formerly known as children’s or juvenile diabetes as it was found to occur mostly in children and adolescents. But now that we know this type of diabetes can occur in adults as well as children, we refer to it as type 1.

Type 1 diabetes is characterized by the complete absence or minute presence of insulin in the body. When insulin is not present, the glucose level of the blood increases and over time, this can lead to diabetes. If left untreated diabetes can lead to a host of health problems, including kidney failure, heart diseases and amputation.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for diabetes. However, leading a healthy lifestyle can keep your glucose levels under control and help you lead a normal life.

Doctors still do not know the exact cause of type 1 diabetes, but many believe that it is an autoimmune disorder, in which the body’s immune system attacks the cells of the pancreas; destroying them and totally hampering the production of insulin. Such an attack on the body’s immune system to its own cells may be triggered by an infection like that of a virus, or even due to the antibodies formed against cow’s milk proteins.

Ingestion certain types of rat poisoning has also been linked to the destruction of pancreatic cells, leading to type 1 diabetes. In addition, infections of the pancreas like trauma, tumors or pancreatitis can also destroy the pancreatic cells and thus cause the production loss of insulin.


As your body’s ability to produce insulin is diminished, all the glucose that you ingest from foods such as pasta, rice, and potatoes gets stored in the blood; the body is unable to use it as energy in spite of the high content of glucose in your body. This may lead you to be hungry all the time or cause you to urinate frequently, in turn increasing your thirst.

The major symptoms of diabetes, are:

  • Increased urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased Hunger
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tiredness
  • Absence of menstruation

Getting a Diagnosis

Anyone experiencing any of the above symptoms should visit their health care professional right away, as diabetes cannot be treated without medical assistance. And since there are two types of diabetes, after confirming you have it your doctor will then need to determine which type of diabetes you have.

To do this your doctor will likely perform a blood test to check for glucose levels. If the levels are higher than 126 mg/dl on an empty stomach, or more than 200 mg/dl on a full stomach, then a diagnosis of diabetes may be assumed. The doctor may also perform a urine test to check for glucose and ketone bodies in the urine.

To distinguish between the two types of diabetes, a C-peptide test is a usually used. C-peptide is actually a by-product of insulin. The test checks for the presence of this compound in the blood. If it is very low or untraceable then the body is not producing any insulin, meaning you may be suffering from type 1 diabetes. If the level is normal, then the doctor may check your blood glucose levels to confirm that you have type 2 diabetes.


Diabetes is mainly treated through insulin replacement therapy and by regularly keeping track of your blood glucose levels.

Insulin Replacement therapy
Insulin may be infused into the body using an injection or an insulin pump. It cannot be taken orally as the body’s digestive juices do not allow it to enter into the blood stream.

Insulin injections are the most common form of diabetes treatment, and generally have to be taken 1 to 4 times a day to be effective, depending on the severity of your case and the dosage given. There are a variety of insulin dosages, ranging from fast to slow acting, available nowadays, which can be used individually or combined together to give the best results.

In general, however, people with type 1 diabetes are given the combination of intermediate and slow acting insulin, to be taken once or twice in a day, as well as fast acting insulin to be taken during meal times. This approach is meant to mimic the reaction of the pancreas, which naturally increases the production of insulin during mealtimes in non-diabetic people.

Insulin pump therapy, on the other hand, is a relatively new way of controlling diabetes. The small, battery-operated pumps are designed to ensure that a certain quantity of insulin flows continuously into the blood stream through a catheter that is placed in the arm and changed every three days or so, allowing the patient to have greater flexibility in her daily routine. However, this method is also significantly more costly and potentially dangerous – if the pump stops working the results can be fatal.

However, there are other things you can do to manage your blood glucose levels. Here are some other tips for controlling your diabetes:

    Watch Your Diet: The diabetic diet should be as low in sugar content as possible. Things like sweets, desserts, candies and soft drinks only increase blood glucose levels, therefore limiting their intake is necessary. Also, your meals need to be timed around your insulin dosages or extreme variations in blood glucose levels can result. In general, a diet high in fiber, low in fat, with lots of fruits and vegetables is always good for keeping yourself healthy and maintaining low glucose levels.

    Physical Activity: Exercise is a very important tool in curbing your diabetes symptoms. Not only does regular exercise help to burning away the extra calories and keep your weight under control, but it also helps the sugar levels of the blood remain balanced. Of course, it is important to note that with type 1 diabetes too much exercise can actually be harmful if the blood glucose levels drop too suddenly. Therefore, be sure to consult with your doctor before starting an exercise regime.

    Glucose tests: Nowadays there are many devices available that can help you test your blood glucose levels when necessary. You can either buy one or get your sugar level tested regularly to note the effect of the various treatments and also see that the level is under control.


Since type 1 diabetes is commonly found in people at a very young age it actually has an increased chance of leading to complications, because over time it can affect the overall functioning of the body. Such complications may include:

    Hypoglycemia: This condition is caused when blood glucose levels drop dramatically due to excessive exercise, using too much insulin or not eating properly. Some of the symptoms associated with hypoglycemia are: sweating, weakness, headache and hunger.
    If such symptoms occur you need to do an immediate blood test and ingest some kind of carbohydrate like glucose in the form of tablets, sugar water, honey or some fruit juice. Also remember to eat simple sugars like glucose that are easy to digest rather than complete meal. Once the sugar level has normalized, normal foods can be eaten.

    Hyperglycemia: As with hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia – or high blood sugar – may also occur when insulin, diet and activities are not balanced. The signs for this may be increased thirst, frequent urination and fatigue.
    The best way to bring your sugar levels down is to exercise, but first you need to check the glucose and ketone levels in your urine. Ketones are acids that are produced when your body does not have enough insulin to break food down into energy. Without the insulin they will build up in the blood and show up in your urine.

    Ketoacidosis: Large amounts of ketone in your urine is a dangerous sign, as it means that your body is burning fat for energy. Sometimes even having common cold, flue or other infections can bring on ketoacidosis. Some symptoms include: unquenchable thirst, dry mouth, difficulty breathing, fatigue and confusion.

    Foot problems: It seems people with diabetes tend to have more foot injuries than non-diabetic people. This is because diabetes causes the blood vessels and nerve endings to become damaged, and thus the sensory system of the foot becomes less sensitive to pressure or trauma. Also, since the body’s immune system is altered due to diabetes an infection may take more time to heal.

    Heart problems: In general people with type 1 diabetes are more prone to cardiovascular diseases. About35 % diabetics will have some form of heart problem by the age of 55.

    Eye problems: Because of the changes in the small blood vessels of the retina, you can get several eye disorders like glaucoma, shortsightedness, or even blindness.

    Kidney problems: Our kidneys work by filtering the what goes through our blood so that the waste products get discarded through the urine while useful substances like red blood cells stay in the blood. Diabetes forces the kidneys to be overworked, as blood glucose levels cause too much blood to be filtered. Over time, this can cause kidney disease and even kidney failure.

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