What is Type 1 diabetes?

Updated at: Jan 02, 2014
What is Type 1 diabetes?
Dr Poonam Sachdev
DiabetesWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: Nov 28, 2011

Diabetes is a group of metabolic diseases characterised by abnormally high levels of blood sugar (glucose). Diabetes is caused due to lack of insulin or the resistance of the cells to insulin. Insulin is a hormone, which helps the cells to utilise the glucose in blood and keeps the blood glucose level under control. Lack of insulin (absolute or resistance of the cells to insulin) prevents the right amount of glucose from entering your cells. This causes glucose to build up in your blood resulting in hyperglycemia (high levels of glucose in the blood).

Glucose is a type of simple sugar. It is used by the cells of the body to build up energy for the proper functioning of the body cells. The carbohydrates present in the food are broken down and digested in the small intestine to form glucose. This glucose is absorbed form the intestine into the bloodstream. The blood transports the glucose to all the cells of the body where it gets utilised. The cells of the body need insulin for proper utilisation of glucose present in the blood.

There are many types of diabetes, but the most common types of diabetes are

  • Type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes
  • Type 2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetes

Type 1 diabetes: Type 1 diabetes affects children and adolescents unlike type 2 diabetes, which is mostly seen in adults. Type 1 diabetes is also known as insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile onset diabetes mellitus. It is caused due to absolute lack of insulin and is usually secondary to the destruction of the beta cells of the pancreas (these cells of pancreas produce insulin).

The beta cells of the pancreas are destroyed because of auto-immune damage to the pancreas. In people with type 1 diabetes, abnormal antibodies are present in the blood. Antibodies are part of the body's immune system, which help to fight infections. In people with type 1 diabetes, the body mistakes the beta-cells as foreign and forms antibodies against the beta-cells of the pancreas, which destroys them. Damage to the pancreas can be triggered by several factors such as a viral infection (mumps and Coxsackie viruses), cow's milk protein or some other factor in the environment.

Type 1 Diabetes is a chronic medical condition, which can be managed with insulin but it cannot be cured (it lasts a lifetime). People with type 1 diabetes need life-long treatment with insulin for the control of blood sugar. Oral medications for the control of blood sugar are not effective in type 1 diabetes. Proper treatment to control blood sugar can significantly reduce the risk of developing Diabetic complications in the later stages. Therefore, it is important to keep your blood sugar level as close to normal as possible.




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