What is type 1 diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus type 1 is a long-term condition characterised by high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period. The high concentration of sugar in the blood is caused by a lack of the hormone called insulin. Insulin is a hormone which lowers the blood sugar and helps the body’s cells absorb the sugar from the bloodstream. Most people develop type 1 diabetes before the age of 40. Diabetes is a common condition and it can lead to serious complications, such as cardiovascular diseases, if the blood sugar isn’t sufficiently controlled.
What are the symptoms of type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetics often experience more symptoms when the disease first develops, and these include:
- Heavy thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Sensory disturbances
- Loss of consciousness (Rare)
If the blood sugar levels are very high, a person might develop a condition called ketoacidosis. When the body goes through ketoacidosis, it starts to hyperventilate and the breath starts smelling like nail polish remover (acetone). The blood pH becomes more acidic, and if a person developing ketoacidosis isn’t treated quickly, it could lead to unconsciousness and even coma.
It is important to prevent conditions like ketoacidosis and long-lasting high blood sugar levels to avoid complications.
What are the causes of type 1 diabetes?
One of the body’s most important sources of energy is sugar. The sugar must be transported into the cells in order for the body to benefit from the sugar. The transportation of sugar is most easily carried out by the insulin in the blood. When a person suffers from type 1 diabetes, the body lacks insulin-producing cells usually located in the pancreas. The reason for this lack of insulin-producing cells is often autoimmune – the body’s own immune system attacks these cells and the ability to produce insulin is lost.
The underlying cause of type 1 diabetes can be genetic. The presence of certain proteins on the surface of the cells might increase the risk of developing type 1 diabetes from 0.5 % among the normal population to 6-12 % among the genetically predisposed population. This is often passed on to children, and when both parents have type 1 diabetes, there is a 20 % greater risk of developing the disease. Another cause is thought to be infection with a gastro-intestinal virus during pregnancy.
How is type 1 diabetes diagnosed?
Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed based on a blood sample. When the blood sugar levels are higher than 12 mmol/L under normal conditions and higher than 7 mmol/L after fasting, the diagnose is made. By measuring a value called HbA1c, it is possible to see the developments in blood sugar levels over the past two months. Usually this value is below 48 mmol/L.
How is type 1 diabetes treated?
Type 1 diabetes is often treated by giving the patient advise on a healthy diet and by teaching the patient how to inject insulin. It is recommended that diabetics stop smoking and start exercising on a daily basis.
There are two types of insulin. Long-acting insulin which covers the basic amount needed for 24 hours and a short-acting type of insulin which is taken with meals and adjusted depending on how many carbohydrates the meal contains.
Since type 1 diabetes is a disease caused by the body’s own attack on the cells in the pancreas, nothing can prevent the disease. In the presence of type 1 diabetes, it is recommended that you follow the treatment plan and that you regularly consult your GP to avoid the development of complications.
To avoid complications like damage to nerves, kidneys, eyes, heart, brains and blood vessels, it is important to control and regulate blood sugar levels carefully. The guidelines concerning ideal blood sugar levels depend on the patient’s age.