Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic and presently incurable and unpreventable disease where the pancreas produces none or very little insulin. It is also called insulin-dependent diabetes.

The destruction of pancreatic beta-cells is the cause of the insulin deficiency associated with type 1 diabetes. It is an autoimmune disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys these fundamentally important beta-cells.

Genetics is known to be the biggest risk factor for developing type 1 diabetes, and the disease is not considered preventable. Between 5-10% of diabetics have type 1 diabetes, as opposed to 90-95% that suffer from type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes can affect all ages, but its onset almost always occurs in early-to-mid childhood (the most commonly diagnosed age groups are 4-7 years old and 10-14 years old). While it’s not well understood why, type 1 diabetes incidence has been on the rise around the world, likely due to certain genetic abnormalities within the modern human populace.

Type 1 diabetes used to be referred to as “juvenile diabetes,” but since the preventable and most prevalent form of diabetes, type 2 diabetes, is now affecting younger and younger populations, including young children, this term is no longer valid. These trends of more children being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are principally due to unhealthful eating and lifestyle choices that result in childhood obesity. Type 2 diabetes also used to be called “adult-onset diabetes,” but that is no longer appropriate.

Type 1 diabetics are particularly at risk for suffering severe diabetes complications, from muscular degeneration to peripheral neuropathy, retinopathy and heart disease, the later of which is the most common cause of death in diabetics.

Hyperglycemic and hypoglycemic episodes are also extremely common in type 1 diabetics. Hyperglycemia occurs frequently in type 1 diabetics because insulin is not naturally produced to help absorb glucose entering the bloodstream, which results in abnormally high blood glucose levels if sufficient external insulin is not injected. Hypoglycemia is when blood glucose levels drop dangerously low, and occurs most often when too much insulin is injected. This happens, for example, when not enough food is eaten after administering insulin. Strenuous exercise can also cause hypoglycemia if not balanced by energy consumption.

People suffering from type 1 diabetes can help to self-manage their condition by practicing healthful eating and staying active, but typically still require daily insulin injections to control their blood glucose levels. Without this treatment and management with insulin, type 1 diabetes often is fatal.

Resources and Further Reading

More about type 1 diabetes, its causes, complications, and symptoms: 
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-1-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20353011

A study looking at the rising incidence of global type 1 diabetes and possible genetic causes: 
http://drc.bmj.com/content/bmjdrc/4/1/e000161.full.pdf

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