Type 1 Diabetes
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:
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)