Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system destroys pancreas cells that produce insulin (these cells are called beta cells). Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas and released after a person eats a meal to digest the glucose (sugar) from the food.
The amount of insulin released is relative to the amount of glucose existent in the meal. Insulin is designed to move sugar from the meal into cells of the body where it can be used as a source of energy to function. Once the sugar is absorbed by the cells the blood glucose level drops, and the beta cells of the pancreas know to stop producing insulin as to prevent hypoglaecemia (too little sugar in the blood).
However, with Type 1 diabetes, the immune system, designed to attack invaders from outside the body (like viruses), destroys the pancreas’ beta cells, so that no insulin is produced, and the body’s cells do not obtain the needed sugar from meals, and end up starving. This means that the blood sugar level in an individual is extremely high.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger (especially after eating)
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and occasionally vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Frequent urination
- Unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry)
- Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
- Blurred vision
Type 1 diabetes is relatively uncommon in the United States, with approximately one in 250 individuals diagnosed. People are usually diagnosed with the illness before the age of 20. Physicians are still not sure what causes Type 1 diabetes.
The most common treatment for this form of diabetes is regular injections of insulin.
For more information on Type 1 diabetes, click here to go to WebMD.
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