What is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s own immune system mistakenly destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Without insulin, cells throughout the body cannot take up energy from glucose, which leads to health complications such as high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), and long-term damage to nerves, vision, and vital organs.
Although T1D typically appears during childhood or adolescence, anyone can be at risk. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 1.25 million Americans are living with T1D, and 40,000 will be newly diagnosed each year.
Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms
Signs are often subtle, but they can become severe. They include:
- Extreme thirst
- Increased hunger (especially after eating)
- Dry mouth
- Upset stomach and vomiting
- Frequent urination
- Unexplained weight loss, even though you’re eating and feel hungry
- Blurry vision
- Heavy, labored breathing (your doctor may call this Kussmaul respiration)
- Frequent infections of your skin, urinary tract, or vagina
- Crankiness or mood changes
- Bedwetting in a child who’s been dry at night
Signs of an emergency with type 1 diabetes include:
- Shaking and confusion
- Rapid breathing
- Fruity smell to your breath
- Belly pain
- Loss of consciousness (rare)
Type 1 Diabetes Causes
Insulin is a hormone that helps move sugar, or glucose, into your body’s tissues. Your cells use it as fuel.
Damage to beta cells from type 1 diabetes throws the process off. Glucose doesn’t move into your cells because insulin isn’t there to do the job. Instead, it builds up in your blood, and your cells starve. This causes high blood sugar, which can lead to:
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