An Explanation of Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, affects children, adolescents and young adults. An autoimmune disease, Type 1 has no cure and is not contagious.

People with Type 1 diabetes must control their illness with diet, exercise and insulin. The cause of diabetes is unknown. Researchers believe the body’s own defense system attacks itself, destroying the pancreatic cells that produce insulin.

Insulin is a hormone produced by a healthy pancreas to convert blood glucose into energy. If you do not have diabetes, your body maintains a perfect balance between what you eat and the amount of insulin you produces.

A Type 1 diabetic must test their blood sugar often, and give themselves insulin to maintain such a balance.

Blood sugars that are too high or too low can be very dangerous. Untreated high blood sugars can eventually cause a serious condition called ketoacidosis, resulting in coma or death. Extremely low blood sugars can cause a person to lose consciousness and die as well. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is a very common problem in children with diabetes, and must be treated immediately.

As children grow into adults with diabetes, they may no longer recognize the symptoms. This can be very serious. A few adults in this situation now have dogs that live with them and can recognize when their blood sugar is dropping, by smell. Dogs are trained especially for this task. This can be a life saving tool for those who no longer feel their low blood sugar.
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People with Type 1 diabetes must inject insulin with needles or use an insulin pump. An insulin pump is a small computerized device that contains insulin. The pump secretes small amounts of insulin every second through tubing attached to the body. Insulin is also given to match the amount of carbohydrate a person eats. This is called a bolus. Too much, or not enough insulin can cause life threatening conditions.

Signs and symptoms of the disease may include extreme thirst, weight loss, frequent urination, drowsiness, lethargy, sudden vision changes and increased appetite. If you notice these symptoms, you should take your child for medical care immediately. In most situations, children are hospitalized until blood sugars are stable and families are educated on how to manage Type 1 diabetes.


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