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Diabetes Health Center

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Type 1 Diabetes

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What Causes It?

Doctors don't know all the things that lead to type 1 diabetes. But they do know your genes play a role.

They also know type 1 diabetes can result when something in the environment, like a virus, tells your immune system to go after your pancreas. Most people with type 1 diabetes have signs of this attack, called autoantibodies. They’re present in almost everyone who has the condition when their blood sugar is high.

Type 1 diabetes can happen along with other autoimmune diseases, like Grave's disease or vitiligo.

What Are the Symptoms?

These are often subtle, but they can become severe. They include:

  • Heavy thirst
  • Increased hunger (especially after eating)
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in your belly
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss (even though you’re eating and feel hungry)
  • Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
  • Blurred vision
  • Heavy, labored breathing (your doctor will call this 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 your breath
  • Pain in your belly
  • Loss of consciousness (rare)

How Is It Diagnosed?

If your doctor thinks you have type 1 diabetes, he’ll check your blood sugar levels. He may test your urine for glucose or chemicals your body makes when you don’t have enough insulin.

Right now there’s no way to prevent type 1 diabetes.

How Is It Treated?

Many people with type 1 diabetes live long, healthy lives. The key to good health is to keep your blood sugar levels within the range your doctor gives you. You’ll need to check them often and adjust insulin, food, and activities to make that happen.

All people with type 1 diabetes must use insulin injections to control their blood sugar.

When your doctor talks about insulin, he’ll mention three main things:

  • "Onset" is the length of time before it reaches your bloodstream and begins lowering blood sugar.
  • "Peak time" is the time when insulin is doing the most work in terms of lowering blood sugar.
  • "Duration" is how long it keeps working after peak time.
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