An overview of type 1 diabetes – Symptoms, consequences & what you can do to lead a regular life
Type 1 diabetes is a form of diabetes and the most common metabolic disorder in childhood. This form of diabetes is an autoimmune disease of the pancreas.
Affected people suffer from insulin deficiency and have to inject insulin for life. There is no prospect of improvement, and there are many possible causes.
In America, 1.25 million people are affected, and, according to the ADA, 40,0000 people get diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year. The average age at onset of the disease is 10 to 13 years.
What is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes, like type 2 diabetes, is a metabolic disease. However, while there is insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes, the absolute insulin deficiency is the problem in type 1 diabetes.
As a result of an autoimmune reaction, cytotoxic T cells attack and damage the beta cells in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas.
Due to the large-scale destruction, these cells can no longer produce or only create a little insulin – too little to react to the rising blood sugar levels after a meal.
Therefore, type 1 diabetes requires insulin. Insulin is usually administered by syringe, although there are now more modern methods (see treatment).
The autoimmune reactions, kill parts of the beta cells in the pancreas, and the still healthy cells compensate for the missing work of the dead ones.
It is only when the immune system broke down 80% and more of all beta cells that the symptoms characteristic of type 1 diabetes appear.
This outbreak occurs very suddenly, is very violent and, if left untreated, leads to death. One hundred years ago, the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes was a death sentence.
Today, those affected, at least as far as nutrition is concerned, can lead a reasonably normal life thanks to medicine.
What variants of type 1 diabetes are there?
These two predominant types are grouped under juvenile diabetes and LADA.
Juvenile diabetes describes the onset of the disease in childhood. The children affected are on average 10 to 13 years old. The symptoms are very clear.
LADA stands for latent autoimmune diabetes in adults, i.e. type 1 adult diabetes that can develop in later years (> 35 years).
It is not as symptomatic as juvenile diabetes (see type 1 diabetes symptoms) and often gets confused with type 2 diabetes. Correct diagnosis with an antibody test is important here.
In the first six months after diagnosis, LADA often does not require additional insulin, since the destruction of the beta cells is slower.
In addition, those affected usually only have one pancreas-specific antibody, whereas in classic type 1 diabetes several antibodies exist.
Those suffering from the disorder are often leaner but have factors associated with metabolic syndrome (increased blood lipid levels, high blood pressure). In newly ill adults, LADA occurs three times more often than classic type 1 diabetes.
After clarifying what type 1 diabetes is and which two types are most common, let’s focus on the symptoms:
How to recognize type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes symptoms
The classic symptoms of type 1 diabetes and, thus, the onset of the disease with an absolute insulin deficiency only appear when 80% and more of the beta cells in the pancreas have died.
The first episode of illness often occurs in times of high stress, such as after an operation, a death, a move or a fever. This extraordinary stress causes the immune system to break down the beta cells even faster.
We can recognize an untreated type 1 diabetes or acute flare-up due to the following symptoms:
Increased urge to urinate
Acetone in the air you breathe (smell like nail polish remover or rotten fruit)
Fatigue and fatigue (see Five Causes Why You Feel Tired After Breakfast & How To Fix It)
Dry and itchy skin
Nausea and vomiting
Bad wound healing (see How To Speed Up Wound Healing & Treat Swelling Naturally)
Changes in blood and urine: abnormally high blood sugar (> 300 mg/dl), ketoacidosis, glucosuria
If you recognize these symptoms, you should immediately consult an endocrine-experienced doctor (general practitioner, endocrinologist, internist). He will then run some tests and diagnose if he detected an illness:
Type 1 diabetes – diagnosis and antibodies
Following is a guide that a doctor can use to unequivocally diagnose type 1 diabetes.
He pays attention to the symptoms described above and then performs a blood sugar test on an empty stomach:
1- The fasting blood sugar in diabetes is> 126 mg/dl
2- HbA1c is> 6.5% in diabetes
3- The glucose tolerance test (oGTT) in diabetes shows a blood sugar value of> 200 mg/dl and more after 2 hours
4- He carries out the glucose tolerance test on two consecutive days, each on an empty stomach.
5- After this test, the doctor knows whether there is diabetes or not.
Whether you suffer from type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes your doctor must determine with a further blood analysis for antibodies. These antibodies only present themselves in type 1 diabetes, but not in type 2 diabetes
Diabetes type 1 antibody
ICA: Antibodies against cytoplasmic islet components
IAA: antibodies against insulin
GADA: Antibody against the enzyme glutamate decarboxylase
IA2A: Antibody against the enzyme tyrosine phosphatase IA2
ZnT8A: Antibody against the zinc transporter ZnT8
Interestingly, in 80% of children with type 1 diabetes, physicians can detect antibodies in the blood at an age of fewer than five years.
If type 1 diabetes is common in the family and there are several risk factors for diabetes (see type 1 diabetes causes and risk factors), a provisional antibody test in children is advisable.
Is type 1 diabetes curable?
Other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes are curable. Meaning that the blood sugar level gets normalized again so far that the patient does not require to take more medication.
In type 1 diabetes, however, an autoimmune reaction occurs. A tissue, here the pancreas, gets permanently attacked and massively damaged.
It is, therefore, difficult to speak of a cure for autoimmune diseases. The better word is remission: a complete decay of the autoimmune reaction. That is possible and has already happened.
A complete cure in that the autoimmune reaction stops and the pancreas regenerates completely is, thus far, not possible.
The therapy aims to keep the blood sugar level at a healthy level and, if possible, to reduce or even stop the autoimmune reaction.
This should increase the quality of life to a normal level, and that is what the advice in this article is about.
Up to 100 years ago, type 1 diabetes was a fatal disease, since the pathologically elevated blood sugar leads to fatal secondary effects.
Modern medicine thanks to genetically engineered insulin has made it possible that those affected are not doomed to death and only moderately restricted in their everyday lives.
Type 1 diabetes – prognosis and consequences
The disease usually lasts lifelong and so the sufferer must take insulin for life. Life expectancy for type 1 diabetics is 11 years lower in men and 13 years in women compared to the non-diabetic population.
The primary goal is to stabilize blood sugar through therapy and, thus, increase the quality of life to a level that non-diabetics can experience.
This is also important because the long-term effects of abnormally high blood sugar can lead to numerous complications:
Consequences of type 1 diabetes
Increased risk of arteriosclerosis, heart attack, stroke
The chronically elevated blood sugar levels increasingly damage the kidney, which can, therefore, impair its function and health. In the worst case, kidney failure threatens.
Increased blood sugar, poor blood circulation and a lack of energy can damage cells in the eye, particularly on the retina. The result is a decrease in vision, which may lead to blindness with poor or no treatment.
Due to the lack of energy, complications in nerve cells such as misalignment of the fingers and toes, numbness, tingling, feeling of ants.
Due to nerve damage and circulatory disorders, wounds heal badly. In the worst case, with chronic inflammation, amputation can occur.
There is a possibility that the autoimmune process will spread to other organs. Type 1 diabetics are at higher risk of developing celiac disease and gluten intolerance, Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
The above-mentioned risk factors can occur in type 1 diabetes, but do not have to. The better the treatment and the more stable the blood sugar, the lower the risk.
What a standard therapy looks like, how to deal with type 1 diabetes in everyday life and during pregnancy and what you should watch out for, you can read in the article linked below.
What are your experiences with type 1 diabetes and or any other related metabolic disease? Have you found a doctor who takes your complaints seriously? Tell us all about it in the comments!
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