Type 1 Diabetes: Living With the Disease - What Happens
Your experience with
type 1 diabetes will be different from that of other
people. But your treatment will be the same: taking insulin, eating a balanced
diet that spreads
carbohydrate throughout the day,
getting regular exercise, and checking your blood
If you work closely with your doctor and follow
your treatment, you will feel better and more in control of your life. You also
may prevent or delay complications.
Not everyone with diabetes
develops complications from the disease. Keeping blood sugar levels within a
target range may prevent or delay
complications. If your teen with diabetes controls his or her blood
sugar, he or she can avoid developing complications in young adulthood.
Injected insulin cannot perfectly match the action of a working
pancreas, so you will have high and low blood sugar levels from time to time.
If your blood sugar stays above your target range for a long time, your blood
vessels and nerves may be damaged. This damage can lead to:
- Microvascular disease,
which affects your eyes or kidneys.
Diabetic retinopathy and
diabetic nephropathy develop without early signs. For
more information, see the topics
Diabetic Retinopathy and
Diabetic Nephropathy. You are also at risk for other
eye diseases, such as
- Macrovascular disease, which affects your heart and your body's large blood vessels.
Diabetes damages the lining of large blood vessels. They become clogged with
hard, fatty deposits called plaque. This process, called
atherosclerosis, narrows the vessels. A
heart attack or
stroke may occur when the blood vessels that supply
your heart and brain are affected.
Peripheral arterial disease develops when the large
vessels in your legs are affected. This leads to problems with blood
circulation in your legs and feet and causes changes in the skin color,
decreased sensation, and leg cramps.
- Diabetic neuropathy, which affects the
nerves in your body. Diabetic neuropathy can decrease or block the movement of
nerve signals through your organs, legs, arms, and other parts of your body.
Nerve damage can affect functioning of internal organs, such as the stomach
(gastroparesis), and your ability to feel pain when
injured. When blood vessels and nerves are affected, bone and joint deformities
can develop, especially in your feet (Charcot foot ). For more information,
see the topic
People with diabetes often already have other health
problems. These may include
high blood pressure and
high cholesterol. Or they may develop other health
problems as diabetes progresses. These conditions, along with smoking, can
cause diabetes complications or can make existing ones worse.
Not smoking and controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol level can
help prevent or help slow complications.
Other health problems in teens
found that teen girls are at higher risk than other people for
diabetic ketoacidosis: they may skip insulin doses to
Eating disorders are also common among teens and young adults with
diabetes. Eating disorders and the tendency to skip insulin injections can
cause swings in blood sugar levels outside the target range. Eating disorders
need to be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible to prevent serious