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Type 1 Diabetes

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Who Gets Type 1 Diabetes?

Although the disease usually starts in people under age 20, type 1 diabetes may occur at any age.

The disease is relatively uncommon, accounting for only about 5% of people with diabetes. The condition is more common in whites than in blacks and occurs equally in men and women.

What Causes Type 1 Diabetes?

Doctors don't know all the factors that lead to type 1 diabetes. Clearly, the susceptibility to the condition can be inherited.

Doctors have identified that an environmental trigger plays a role in causing the disease. Type 1 diabetes appears to occur when something in the environment -- a toxin or a virus (but doctors aren't sure) -- triggers the immune system to mistakenly attack the pancreas and destroy the beta cells of the pancreas to the point where they can no longer produce sufficient insulin. Markers of this destruction -- called autoantibodies -- can be seen in most people with type 1 diabetes. In fact, they are present in 85% to 90% of people with the condition when the blood sugars are high.

Because it's an autoimmune disease, type 1 diabetes can occur along with other autoimmune diseases such as hyperthyroidism from Grave's disease or the patchy decrease in skin pigmentation that occurs with vitiligo.

What Are the Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes?

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes are often subtle, but they can become severe. They include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger (especially after eating)
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea and occasionally vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry)
  • Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
  • Blurred vision
  • Heavy, labored breathing (Kussmaul respiration)
  • Frequent infections of the skin, urinary tract, or vagina

Signs of an emergency with type 1 diabetes include:

  • Shaking and confusion
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fruity smell to the breath
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of consciousness (rare)
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Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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