What is Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. Only 5% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. With the help of insulin therapy and other treatments, even young children can learn to manage their condition and live long, healthy lives.
A diagnosis of type 1 diabetes means your pancreas is no longer capable of producing insulin. Through multiple daily injections with insulin pens or syringes or an insulin pump, it will be up to you to monitor your blood glucose levels and appropriately administer your insulin. You will need to work closely with your healthcare team to determine which insulin or insulins are best for you and your body. Nutrition is one of the most important pieces of the diabetes puzzle. Understanding how different foods affect your blood glucose and learning to develop solid meal plans will be a crucial part of your daily routine.
Exercise is also a key component of proper diabetes care. Along with all of the other benefits you will receive from being active, your diabetes will also respond in kind with more stable blood glucose levels. We have plenty of information and tips to help get you motivated and keep your exercise routines fresh.
Type 1 diabetes can affect major organs in your body, including heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. Keeping your blood sugar level close to normal most of the time can dramatically reduce the risk of many complications.
Long-term complications of type 1 diabetes develop gradually, over years. The earlier you develop diabetes — and the less controlled your blood sugar — the higher the risk of complications. Eventually, diabetes complications may be disabling or even life-threatening. Long-term complications can include:
- Heart and Blood Vessel Disease: Diabetes dramatically increases your risk of various cardiovascular problems, including coronary artery disease with chest pain (angina), heart attack, stroke, narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and high blood pressure.
- Nerve Damage (Neuropathy): Excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish your nerves, especially in the legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning, or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upward. Poorly controlled blood sugar could cause you to eventually lose all sense of feeling in the affected limbs. Damage to the nerves that affect the gastrointestinal tract can cause problems with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. For men, erectile dysfunction may be an issue.
- Kidney Damage (Nephropathy): The kidneys contain millions of tiny blood vessel clusters that filter waste from your blood. Diabetes can damage this delicate filtering system. Severe damage can lead to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant.
- Eye Damage: Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy), potentially leading to blindness. Diabetes also increases the risk of other serious vision conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma.
- Foot Damage: Nerve damage in the feet or poor blood flow to the feet increases the risk of various foot complications. Left untreated, cuts and blisters can become serious infections. Severe damage might require toe, foot or even leg amputation.
- Skin and Mouth Conditions: Diabetes may leave you more susceptible to skin problems, including bacterial and fungal infections. Gum infections also may be a concern, especially if you have a history of poor dental hygiene.
- Osteoporosis: Diabetes may lead to lower than normal bone mineral density, increasing your risk of osteoporosis.
- Pregnancy Complications: High blood sugar levels can be dangerous for both the mother and the baby. The risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and birth defects are increased when diabetes isn’t well controlled. For the mother, diabetes increases the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis, diabetic eye problems (retinopathy), pregnancy-induced high blood pressure and preeclampsia.
- Hearing Problems: Hearing impairments occur more often in people with diabetes.
Featured Image: Thinkstock/Mike Watson Images