Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which is a disease that attacks the body's own cells. In type 1 diabetes, the body attacks and destroys the beta cells of the pancreas, the cells that are responsible for producing a hormone called insulin. Insulin is the hormone that lowers blood glucose levels, maintaining a proper balance between glucose and insulin in the bloodstream. If these pancreatic cells are destroyed, an individual will not be able to produce insulin and as a result high blood glucose levels (known as diabetes) occurrence.
Diabetes is not curable and as with all autoimmune diseases, it has not yet been determined exactly what causes it. However, according to the University of Maryland School of Medicine, inheritance plays a significant part and there may be an association in the development of type 1 diabetes and a virus.
The American Diabetes Association estimates that there are one to two million people who have Type 1 Diabetes. This form of diabetes was once called Juvenile Diabetes, primarily affected young children between the ages of 10 to 14 years of age. However, in the 1980s, medical researchers concluded that this type of diabetes can affect people of all ages and there changed the name from Juvenile Diabetes to type 1 diabetes.
Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes
Common Symptoms Associated with Type 1 Diabetes:
Weight loss even with increased appetite
Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain
Absence of menstruation
Any of the above symptoms could be indicative of diabetes, and therefore a follow-up appointment with a physician is necessary for anyone exhibiting a combination of these symptoms. Physicians will perform tests (urine and blood tests) to determine if the early signs of this disease are present. If these tests are positive, doctors will then perform more testing to confirm type1 diabetes as a diagnosis.
Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes
The focus of the treatment plan for this disease is to control the high blood glucose levels. This will prevent a serious life threatening condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Since people with type 1 diabetes are no longer able to produce the cells that produce insulin, this disease is not considered to be insulin-resistant, but it is insulin-dependent, and therefore will require injections of an artificial form of insulin. The type of insulin and the amount to be given to diabetics will be determined by their healthcare provider.
Weight control and exercise are also extremely important in the management of this disease. Therefore, a treatment plan that includes proper exercise along with a calculated caloric diet (such as a diet plan designed by the American Dietetic Association (ADA)) is imperative to maintain an optimum level of health with this disease. Physicians and dietitians will work together to determine the amount of calories a diabetic's diet will require based on present weight, goal weight and exercising program. Diabetics will also be provided diabetic educational classes to teach them how and when to test their own blood sugar, how to prepare and inject insulin, and what signs and symptoms to look for to help manage this disease.
Diabetes is a chronic disease, and as with all chronic diseases the continuous demands of proper treatment gets to be somewhat overwhelming. However, diabetics need to keep in mind that untreated diabetes destroys the major arteries of the body, resulting in kidney disease, blindness, loss of limbs, and often premature death. Diabetic must seek expert advice from their physician and allow the American Diabetes Association to provide them information as well as guidance in treatment of this disease.