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Type 1 Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Type 1 Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Type 1 diabetes is one of the major types of diabetes and you will know about its main causes, symptoms and possible treatment if there are any.

Let’s start with diabetes. Diabetes Mellitus simply known as Diabetes is a chronic disease sometimes also called “sugar diabetes”. It occurs when human body loses its ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin. Consequently, the metabolism of carbohydrates behaves abnormal. In simple words, the body of diabetics cannot make insulin or cannot make good use of insulin that is produced.

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease and more than 90% of the type 1 diabetics are children. Age and weight have no role in the development of type 1 diabetes. The body of t1 diabetic’s cannot produce insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone for controlling blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes is also known by different names like auto-immune, juvenile and insulin dependent diabetes.

Insulin dependent

Type 1 diabetes is also called the insulin dependent diabetes because the body of t1 diabetic cannot produce insulin properly due to inexistence of the Beta cells in the pancreas. These Beta cells are mistakenly destroyed by the immune system.

Auto-immune disease

T1 diabetes is also known as auto-immune disease or disorder because the insulin making beta cells are wiped out by the immune system mistakenly. Therefore, people diagnosed with t1d usually have weak immune system that is more susceptible to develop infections. In some cases, poor diet can also instigate this immune disorder.

Juvenile diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is mostly diagnosed in children or young persons who are under 28. This is the reason it was once famously known as juvenile diabetes. Don’t confuse yourself between juvenile diabetes and juvenile-onset diabetes as both are same.

Why t1d is called a chronic disease?

It is called a chronic disease because once you are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, there is no permanent cure. A t1 diabetic needs to regularly inject insulin to meet the deficiency.

Causes of Type 1 diabetes

Doctors are not yet sure about any specific cause of this insulin dependent type 1 diabetes. It has no prediabetes stage and it just happens and we have to live with it. There is no particular cause of type 1 diabetes related to lifestyle and diet.

However, according to statistics, there are some causes of type 1 diabetes and these stats have made scientists do research and identify the facts. Environment, family history, geography, genes, viral infections, hereditary, race and ethnicity are considered as the top factors in developing the type 1 diabetes.

Genes

No research clearly states that type 1 diabetes is genetically transferred from parents to child. But according to the facts and figures, the chances of you diagnosed with T1D increases if one or both of your parents have it. Not only the parents but if your siblings have it, there will be much higher chances that you will develop it. Beta cells in the pancreas are responsible for making inulin and these cells are destroyed by a genes called HLA genes. Genes person vary to vary and different genes are transferred from parents to child. If you inherit HLA genes from your parents, chances are high that you will develop type 1 diabetes. Therefore, it is strongly believed that race and ethnicity also plays their part in the development of type one.

Environment

Recently, scientists have found few evidence according to which islet autoimmunity is the first stage of the type 1 diabetes. Islet autoimmunity usually starts in the childhood and is defined by the consistent presence of the autoantibodies inside the pancreas. The chances of developing type 1 diabetes are increased up to 70% of those children who develop two or more islet autoantibodies (GAD and ZnT8).

Cow’s milk is also considered as one of the environmental factor that instigate the development of type 1 diabetes in children. Research says that if children are given cow’s milk under 5 years of age, the risk of type 1 diabetes is quite high as compared other children.

Geography

Facts and figures also show that people who live in northern areas have higher risk of T1D as compared to those who live in southern areas. Likewise, people living in cold regions have higher risk as well. Scientists didn’t have any solid evidence but analyzing the stats, they believe that in colder regions and northern areas, people mostly live indoor and live close to each other and therefore viral infections become more common. Moreover, in winters, more cases are reported as compare to the cases reported in summers. Try to meet the deficiency of Vitamin D to avoid T1D risks.

Viral infections

Viral infections as discussed earlier can raise the probability of you being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Viral infections may or can damage the immune system and as we know that T1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease. A viral infection can indirectly be the sole cause of type 1 diabetes.

Race and Ethnicity

Race and ethnicity also play their part in development of diabetes. Following table shows us about the percentage of adult races that are more susceptible to diabetes (not specifically Type 1).

Race/EthnicityPercentage of Adults
Non-Hispanic Whites
7.4%
Asian Americans8.0%
Hispanics12.1%
Non-Hispanic Blacks
12.7%
American Indians15.1%
Breakdown among Asian Americans
Chinese4.3%
Filipinos8.9%
Asian Inians8.5%
Breakdown among Hispanic’s
Central and South Americans8.5%
Cubans9.0%
Mexican Americans13.8%
Puerto Ricans12.0%

Family history

As described above that family history does matter a lot in the development of type 1 diabetes. If one or both your parents are type 1 diabetic, your chances are high but if your sibling(s) has it, chances are even higher. Let’s have a look at some of the facts and numbers about the risk percentage faced by children if their parents are type 1 diabetic(s).

    1. Only 5.88 children out of 100 (1 in 17) have a chance of t1 diabetes if father is t1 diabetic
    2. If mother is type 1 diabetic; 4 in 100 children will have it if age is under 25 years. For age 25 or above, chances are reduced to 1 in 100 children.
    3. The above numbers are doubled if one of the parent had diabetes at the age of 11 or before.
    4. There are only 0.3% chances of T1D development in your child if none of your parent or sibling has it.
    5. If both parents are type one diabetic, one in four children will have t1d.
    6. If one of your siblings has it, your chances of being diagnosed with it are 5% (same as if your father has it).
    7. If your twin sibling has developed it, there is 50% chance you will develop it as well.

Development of type one diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is neither developed overnight and nor it takes years to develop. It usually takes few days or weeks to develop type 1 diabetes. Young age and being over-weight doesn’t matter and therefore other symptoms requires your attention. You need to regularly observe following symptoms in yourself and in your children. Because if you or your partner have type 1, the chances that your child will develop it are high.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes

Like all other diseases, type 1 diabetes also have some symptoms that you should know if you are a child and your parents have t1d or if you are parent having type 1 and you have a child. Some of the symptoms are serious symptoms and if you observe them, you should consult with a related doctor.

Peeing / urinating frequently

One of the major symptoms of type 1 diabetes. If you notice that you or your child have to pee so often, you might have developed T1D. You have to see a doctor.

Fatigue / Tiredness

Type 1 is mostly diagnosed in children and we know that children are energetic and active. Therefore, children should not experience unnecessary fatigue or tiredness. If you or your child is often exhausted without any extraordinary physical activity, you need to see your doctor. Though, it is not a major symptom but it depends on your family history.

Headache

Headache is also an unexpected thing if children experience it so often. It might also be due to the development of type 1.

Extreme Thirst

Not only peeing too much is a symptom but also extreme thirst is a symptom of t1d. Extreme thirst for 1 or 2 days is normal but experiencing it all day for weeks or months requires a visit to doctor.

Thin / Weight Loss

A sudden weight loss or being skinny even if your diet is healthy can also be a major sign of type one diabetes development.

Other symptoms

    • Heavy breathing
    • Irritability
    • Unusual Hunger
    • Urine contains sugar
    • Experiencing blurry vision

Complications of type 1 diabetes

We will try to keep it simple to let you understand all the possible complications that tt1 diabetic may face. A type 1 diabetic needs to keep its sugar level in control on daily basis. Being careless about blood glucose for longer period may lead to short-term as well as long-term complications. We recommend you to read our detailed blog post on how dangerous can t1d be?

Short term complications

If your blood sugar level is not in control, here are some of the short term complications that you may experience.

    • Unexpected sweating
    • Sleepiness
    • Numb fingers, lips or toes
    • Pale skin
    • Fast heartbeat
    • Abdominal pain
    • Cold skin
    • Headache

Long term complications

Uncontrolled blood sugar levels for years may lead to long-term complications. You should not neglect the importance of controlled blood glucose as your tiny organs, small and large blood vessels can be at risk. It may take up to 10 years until it start affecting your organs.

Micro-vascular complications

When your tiny blood vessels are affected due to uncontrolled glucose level, you may face micro-vascular complications. These complications specifically effects your

    • Eyes (loss of vision in worst cases)
    • Kidney failure (Nephropathy)
    • Nerves (Neuropathy)

Macro-vascular complications

If your large blood vessels are affected, it may lead to macro-vascular complications. Aorta and cava are large blood vessels responsible for carrying blood to and from the heart. Damage to them can instigate the risk of heart attack.

Hypoglycemia and Hyperglycemia

Hypoglycemia refers to the state of your body when blood sugar level is low. You are in phase of hypoglycemia when your blood sugar level is below 4.0 mmol/l. A type 1 diabetic needs to treat hypoglycemia aka low blood sugar as soon as possible because it can be very dangerous. Untreated hypoglycemia may lead to unconsciousness, seizures and eventually death. It has three stages mild, moderate and severe.

Hyperglycemia refers to the state of body when blood sugar is high. This happens usually because either your body doesn’t produce insulin or make use of it properly. Insulin absorbs your glucose and converts it into energy but not in case of hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia can be dangerous because if you don’t control your blood sugar for a long time, you may have to face long-term complications discussed earlier.

Treatment of type 1 diabetes

We have discussed the symptoms and causes of type 1 diabetes so let’s talk about its possible treatment. There is no permanent cure or treatment yet found by the doctors. Hence, a type 1 diabetic has to live with it but no worries as here are some advices below to stay healthy and live long life avoiding all the complications.

1.      Take insulin properly

As T1D cannot properly make insulin therefore they need to inject insulin. You need to consult with the right doctor to know about the correct insulin dose according to your body and the best time to take it.

2.      Foot care

Wash your feet daily and dry them. Moisturize them with body lotion and keep noticing the blisters, cuts, sore or redness. If you have any of these foot problems and they are not healing, you must visit a doctor.

3.      Stop smoking

If you are a type 1 diabetic and you smoke. Try to stop smoking because it can increase the risk of macro-vascular and micro-vascular complications.

4.      Avoid Alcohol

If you are an alcoholic, you need to lower the consumption of alcohol as it can either spike or lower your blood sugar levels. Do check your blood glucose few hours after drinking the alcohol.

5.      Stress is bad

Permanent stress or long time stress can affect a type 1 diabetic. Insulin might stop working properly.

6.      Frequently checking the Glucose levels

A type 1 diabetic should always be updated about his blood sugar levels and frequently check it. Keep your blood sugar level as close to normal as possible. Between 80 to 130 mg/DL before the meals and after taking meal not more than 180 mg/DL. Glucose needs to be in control to avoid any kind of complications.

7.      Eating Healthy food

Eat food that is healthy and keep account of the carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Foods that are rich specifically in carbohydrates are dangerous for type 1 diabetics and special insulin dose is required.

8.      Exercise

Taking part in any physical activity on daily basis or doing exercise is best to control your blood sugar levels. A type 1 diabetic should join such a community or group.

Type 1 diabetes in Adults

Type 1 diabetes is mostly diagnosed in children and young persons under 28 years of age. But type 1 diabetes can also be developed in adults as well. This development is comparatively slower than the T1D development in youth and children. You might have heard a term called LADA (Latent Autoimmune diabetes of Adulthood) as it usually refers to those type 1 diabetics who are above 35 years old. Diabetes LADA is therefore considered as a form of type 1 diabetes.

Differentiating Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes

C-peptide test

A C-peptide test is used to differentiate between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. When HbA1C levels exceeds 6.5% then diabetes is identified. But there is a C-peptide test which differentiates between a type 1 and type 2 diabetes. If you have developed t1d, then you will have little to no insulin as well as C-peptide and if you have developed t2d, then your C-peptide level will be higher than normal.

Facts and Figures: Type 1 diabetes

Some of the stats on the basis of surveys of past few years and decades are shared below. All of these manifests how type 1 diabetes cases are increasing every year.

UK:

    • Less than 10% of the overall diabetics in United Kingdom have type 1 diabetes
    • Type 1 diabetics are increasing by 4% every year in the United Kingdom.
    • Every year in the United Kingdom, 5% increase is seen in the type 1 diabetic’s children that are 5 years old or less.
    • In 2009, around 200 thousand people were diagnosed with the type 1 diabetes.
    • In 2019, the graph of type 1 diabetics in UK jumped up to around 350 thousand people. It is expected that if the frequency of type 1 diabetics keep on increasing like that. By 2025, the numbers will exceed by 400 thousand.
    • According to the report of 2019, around 130 people in UK have serious effect of type 1 diabetes on their eyes.
    • By 2019, more than 750 people have end stage kidney failure due to type 1 diabetes.
    • 5 out of 100000 children between 0-14 ages in the United Kingdom has type 1 diabetics. (Diabetes.org 2013 statistics)

USA:

    • Around 5% of the total population of the United States has type 1 diabetes. (2015 statistics)
    • About 5% of the overall American Diabetics have type 1 diabetes.
    • According to ADA, every year around 40000 Americans are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
    • It is expected that by 2050, there will be 5 Million Americans diagnosed with T1D including 600000 individuals under 28. (Dabelea, et al. 2014. JAMA 311: 1778-1786)
    • 7 out of 100000 children between 0-14 ages in the USA has type 1 diabetics. (Diabetes.org 2013 statistics)

Australia:

    • In 2001, almost 25% of the overall population had type 1 diabetes in Australia. These number were increased up to 0.48% (almost doubled) till 2014-15. However, the graph remained almost stable till 2017-18. (ABS 2018).
    • In 2017-18, every 4 persons in 1000 have type 1 diabetes in Australia.
    • 56% males and 0.4% females of the overall Australians were type 1 diabetics by 2017-18.
    • In 2017, more than 250 died with type 1 diabetes out of 4839 overall diabetic’s deaths in Australia. However, there is a continuous decrease in the mortality of t1d in the past decade.
    • 5 out of 100000 children between 0-14 ages in the Australia has type 1 diabetics. (Diabetes.org 2013 statistics)

Worldwide Stats:

    • In 2014, around 29 million diabetics with type one were reported.
    • The ratio of type 1 diabetes in young persons under age 18 has been increased worldwide from 7% in 1980 to 8.5% in 2014.
    • There are more than 1 million children diagnosed with T1D in the world.
    • Males are more often diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as compared to females with a male-to-female ratio of 1.8:1.

Summary

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic, insulin dependent and auto-immune disease mostly developed in children or young persons. A type one diabetic cannot produce insulin due to the inexistence of Beta cells destroyed by immune system. Beta cells are present inside the pancreas. Your family history, genes, race/ethnicity, environment and geography are some factors that causes its development. There is no pre-diabetes stage for t1d and once you have developed it, you have to live with it. Headache, frequent urination, extreme thirst and hunger, fatigue and tiredness are major symptoms of t1 diabetes. You can live long and normal life too by just keeping your blood sugar level in control.

If you find our post helpful, a nice comment below will be of great motivation. Your thoughts matters a lot and we will highly appreciate if you share your experience being a type 1 diabetic. See the blog feed to know more about diabetes like what and when should you eat, best fruits, best meal, best juices etc.

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