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What is Diabetes Type 1 ?

If you are looking for information on children and diabetes, the chances are you need to know about diabetes type 1. This is the less common type of diabetes and is usually diagnosed in childhood or early adult life.

Type 1 diabetes is a disorder of the body’s immune system that prevents it from producing insulin. The beta cells in the pancreas, that are responsible for insulin production, are attacked and killed by the body’s immune system.

There is no clear understanding of what causes this attack on the beta cells, but medical experts believe it is triggered by the body’s reaction to a viral or other infection. This seems to happen most frequently in children, and diabetes is the result. 

What is the difference between Juvenile Diabetes and Diabetes Type 1 ?

There is no difference between them. Type 1 sugar diabetes used to be known as juvenile onset diabetes because it is usually diagnosed in children, teenagers or young adults. This is a fairly misleading term however, as juvenile diabetes symptoms can be experienced at any age, although they are usually diagnosed before the age of 40.

Because people with diabetes type 1 need to take insulin in order to stay alive, this disease is also often referred to as insulin dependent diabetes. Other names for type 1 diabetes include pediatric diabetes and childhood diabetes.

What is the Treatment for Diabetes Type 1 ?

Type 1 diabetes sufferers need regular insulin doses each day. They can’t take insulin orally as it will be broken down by the digestive juices in the stomach, making it ineffective. Reducing juvenile diabetes symptoms may take up to four insulin injections each day, or the same amount of insulin delivered to the body via a pump.

People with diabetes type 1 also need to regulate their blood sugar, which means regulating diet and exercise and taking a blood test by pricking their fingers several times a day to determine whether their blood sugar is too high or too low.

It can be very difficult for parents to regulate the blood sugar of their children, and diabetes is an issue that many schools know little about, so some education and training is needed to ensure that young people with type 1 diabetes get the support they need.

What happens in type 1 diabetes when blood sugar is too high ?

If a type 1 diabetic’s blood sugar level is too high they may have a hyperglycaemic reaction. When this is caused by eating too many calories, blood sugar may increase steadily over time, and the symptoms may not be obvious, so regular monitoring is essential. If a hyperglycaemic reaction is caused by missing an insulin dose, it will happen much more quickly and the symptoms will be obvious.

Symptoms of a hyperglycaemic reaction include thirst and increased urination, progressing to blurred vision and dizziness and potentially ending in losing consciousness.

Long term high blood sugar levels can lead to damage to the eyes, heart, kidneys, blood vessels and nerves. If the blood sugar is very high, over 250mg/dl and the patient becomes dehydrated, they risk life threatening conditions such as hyperosmoler state and diabetic ketoacidosis.

What happens in type 1 diabetes when blood sugar is too low ?

If a diabetic’s blood sugar becomes too low, they can experience a hypoglycaemic reaction. This happens when there is too much insulin and not enough glucose in the blood, which can be triggered by eating a meal with lots of simple sugars, by taking certain medications, or by intense exercise.

Early symptoms of a hypoglycaemic reaction include confusion, dizziness, trembling, headaches and irritability. As the reaction becomes more intense, other symptoms such as poor co-ordination and numbness in the mouth may be experienced. At this stage the reaction can be treated by eating sources of glucose, such as glucose tablets, sugar or fruit juice, at regular intervals.

When a hypoglycaemic reaction reaches the point where the patient passes out, they will need a glucagons injection. An ambulance should always be called for a severe attack as the patient might slip into a coma.


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