Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms and Care

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes are often not easy to recognize and many people live with it for a long time before becoming aware that they are diabetes sufferers.

Type 1 diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, diabetes mellitus and/or juvenile diabetes. It is a chronic, i.e. lifelong, disease that accounts for approximately ten percent of total diabetes cases in Europe and North America. It is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce sufficient insulin to regulate blood sugar levels appropriately.

Type 1 diabetes can affect both adults and children but is frequently called juvenile diabetes because it represents the majority of the childhood cases of diabetes.

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Type 1 Diabetes Symptom

Without an adequate supply of insulin-glucose builds up in the bloodstream instead of being used by the cells. The body is unable to use this excess glucose for energy despite the high levels in the bloodstream which can lead to an increase in both hunger and fatigue. Another type 1 diabetes symptom is frequent urination, which in turn will lead to excessive thirst.

It can take some years, but eventually, the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas are completely destroyed by the body's own immune system. Once no more insulin is being produced it needs to be supplied from another source, often insulin injections, in order to help the body function properly.

Another specific type 1 diabetes symptoms are:

  • Weight loss despite normal or increased appetite
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • The absence of menstruation in women
Diagnostic approach
  • Urinalysis shows glucose and ketone bodies in the urine
  • Fasting glucose level of 126 mg/dL or higher
  • Random (non-fasting) blood glucose level exceeding 200 mg/dL (should be confirmed with a fasting glucose test)
  • Insulin test
  • C-peptide test – low or undetectable levels of the protein C-peptide, a by-product of insulin production.
Treatment and care

Occasionally a newly diagnosed diabetes patient may require hospitalization to initially regulate insulin levels. However, since diabetes is a chronic disease the emphasis will be on managing both the short and long term diabetes-related problems. Patient education plays an important role in the ongoing management and dietary changes are almost always necessary together with self-glucose monitoring and long term glycemic control.

A long term goal is to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke as diabetes sufferers tend to be at higher risk. Lifestyle changes are often required to manage this risk. Increased exercise, stopping smoking and an appropriate diet are all required. These changes can allow a sufferer to take control of their disease rather than allowing diabetes to take control of them.

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