In type 1 diabetes, the body cannot produce the hormone insulin, which is formed in the pancreas. This in turn means that sugar in the blood cannot be transferred to the body’s cells to provide the necessary energy. The result is a constant high blood sugar with typical symptoms such as fatigue, thirst, increased urine volume, and weight loss. The treatment is lifelong administration of synthetic insulin and daily control of blood sugar.
The disease can debut at any age, but the disease is more common in young people. It is a disease you have throughout your life, it cannot be cured and requires a continuous supply of insulin – but you can still live a good life.
In type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The insulin is needed for the body’s cells to use glucose (sugar) in the blood as energy. When the insulin level does not meet the body’s needs, you get a constant high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia. At the beginning of disease development, insulin production decreases, but by the end it is not produced at all. Then you need to add insulin.
Diabetes mellitus is a collective name for various diabetic diseases.
In type 2 diabetes, insulin production is reduced and cells are less sensitive to insulin, which results in elevated blood sugar levels. The symptoms are similar, but cause and treatment differ between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes In Adults) is an uncommon and more mild type 1 diabetes that can be mistaken for type 2.
The course of the disease at LADA is slower and not as clear as in type 1 diabetes – it is more common in adulthood.
Having diabetes involves an increased risk of cardiovascular disease later in life, as a high sugar value damages both small and large blood vessels.
The cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. A number of explanatory theories have been put forward, and the cause may be one or more of the following: genetic susceptibility, a diabetogenic trigger, and exposure to an antigen.
Some chemicals and drugs selectively destroy pancreatic cells such as Pyrinuron. Monoclonal antibodies used for the treatment of cancer, especially nivolumab and pembrolizumab have been reported to occasionally induce autoimmune diabetes.
The symptoms are clear and the period of illness can go fast. Typical symptoms are:
- increased thirst
- increased urine levels
- abnormal fatigue
- involuntary weight loss
- nausea and vomiting
- pain in the stomach
- acetone-smelling breath
- slow wound healing
- blurred vision.
Two serious complications in type 1 diabetes
When the body lacks insulin, blood sugar cannot be converted into energy. Instead, the body breaks down fat which releases ketones which make the blood acidic. The condition is called ketoacidosis and is serious because it breaks down the body, called catabolism. It requires immediate hospital care.
Keep in mind that ketoacidosis can be mistaken for stomach upset. Seek urgent care if you or your child get worse quickly. The symptoms of ketoacidosis are:
- acetone smelling breath
- nausea and vomiting
- difficulty breathing
Low blood sugar is called hypoglycemia. The sign of a rapid change is that of the person:
- get sweating
- gets shaky
- has difficulty concentrating
- feel irritabile
- becomes unconscious
It is important that your relatives know about your illness in order to help. With any symptoms of this kind, your blood sugar needs to be measured and you may need to eat and drink to raise your blood sugar level. If the condition becomes serious, urgent care is needed.
Prevention and protection
Type 1 diabetes is not currently preventable. Some researchers believe it might be prevented at the latent autoimmune stage, before it starts destroying beta cells.
Some research has suggested breastfeeding decreases the risk in later life and early introduction of gluten-containing cereals in the diet increases the risk of developing islet cell autoantibodies. Giving children 2000 IU of vitamin D daily during their first year of life is associated with reduced risk of type 1 diabetes, though the causal relationship is obscure.
The primary focus of treatment is to obtain as stable blood sugar as possible throughout the day and to prevent complications. You measure your blood sugar daily and take insulin based on need and prescription. Today, there are many aids to facilitate treatment.
In addition, you have regular care contact with a diabetes team for continuous monitoring of important functions in the body. For example, you may give urine, blood tests, measure blood pressure and blood fats, check eyes, feet, kidneys, and cardiovascular status.
You can live a good life with type-1 diabetes by understanding your illness and actively participating in your treatment. You need to:
- Regularly measure your blood sugar
- drug treatment with prescribed insulin
- eat healthy food
- avoid becoming overweight
- avoid smoke
- exercise daily
- consume alcohol moderately.
When to consult a doctor
Signs of diabetes may be that you are tired and lack energy, in combination with increased thirst, increased urine volume and weight loss. If you suspect diabetes, you should seek medical attention.
Seek emergency care in case of severe weight loss, in combination with high thirst and volume of urine, and if you feel confused.
How Appotek can help
You can contact us at APPOTEK for help with type 1 diabetes. A nurse or physician makes an individual assessment based on your or your child’s symptoms, after which you or your child may be prescribed treatment or referred for further examination.
In diabetes, a physical examination is required. Bear in mind that if your child has a problem, he or she should see a doctor.
Our psychologists can help with supportive conversations if you or your child have been diagnosed and need someone to talk to.