Find out what you need to know about type 1 diabetes, by reading our guide on the disease which covers symptoms, diagnosis and treatment information.
You’ve probably heard about the two types of diabetes but might not know what the difference is. To help in your understanding of this condition, we have put together a diabetes education guide on what you need to know about type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually appears in children or adolescents, although it is also possible for adults to develop the disease. It is a chronic condition caused when the pancreas produces no insulin, or very little insulin, which is the hormone used by the body to permit glucose to enter the cells of the body. Type 1 diabetes can be inherited through a parent, or it can develop after exposure to certain viruses that trigger it. This disease is serious and requires regular diabetes treatment, but diabetes research reveals it is not nearly as deadly as it was in former times, and can be managed to allow a normal life for the person afflicted.
What you need to know about type 1 diabetes is that the symptoms associated with the disease can appear relatively suddenly in a child, and if several of them are manifested all at once, the child should be taken to see a physician at the earliest opportunity. Symptoms include increased thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision, fatigue and or weakness, unintentional weight loss, irritability or other mood swings, sudden development of bed-wetting where there was none before, extreme hunger, and among young females a vaginal yeast infection.
What actually happens in type 1 diabetes is that the body’s immune system seeks to destroy the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas because it views them as harmful in error. Once a significant number of these cells have been destroyed, the amount of insulin produced drops way down to very little or nothing.
Normally the insulin produced by the pancreas circulates in the bloodstream and acts to allow glucose to enter cells of the body for energy, while lowering the level of glucose in the bloodstream. When the bloodstream level is lowered, insulin production decreases. Without the presence of sufficient insulin to permit glucose to enter the cells, that glucose builds up in the bloodstream instead and causes any number of harmful health situations.
What you need to know about type 1 diabetes is that there are several serious and harmful effects that type 1 diabetes can have on the body, most of which affect the blood vessels, heart, kidneys, eyes and nervous system. Most of these dangers can be avoided however if the level of insulin is maintained at a near normal level by close monitoring and introduction of insulin by artificial means.
Diabetes greatly increases the risk of many kinds of cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and atherosclerosis. Nerve damage is another frequent result of diabetes, as it attacks the tiny blood vessels that provide nourishment to the nerves, most notably in the legs. This is recognized as a tingling sensation that may worsen into a burning feeling, and it often spreads from the fingertips or the toes on upward, eventually causing loss of feeling in the hands or legs if left untreated.
Kidney damage can be incurred when the tiny blood vessel system that filters waste out of the body is disrupted by the disease. If damage becomes severe, kidney failure might result and require a kidney transplant or dialysis. The eyes can be damaged because the blood vessels servicing them are harmed by diabetes, and this can lead to loss of vision, cataracts or glaucoma.
There are a whole host of other problems that can develop as a result of diabetes, because it damages the blood vessels throughout the body, and all areas being supplied with nutrients through these blood vessels no longer receive the required nutrition.
A doctor will request a glycated hemoglobin test (also called an A1C diabetes blood test) to determine a patient’s blood sugar level for the past two or three months as a first step. It measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin, and if the percentage of hemoglobin with blood sugar is more than around 6.5 percent on two separate tests, diabetes is indicated. If this diabetes blood test is unavailable, or if it would provide false indications (for instance, in a pregnant woman), other tests would be used.
Once diabetes has been diagnosed, you will be shown how to control diabetes. Regular visits to the doctor will become necessary, during which time the A1C level diabetes blood test will be conducted to determine blood sugar levels. If levels stay within a manageable level, daily tests for blood sugar level might not be needed, and can be limited to doctor visit testing.
The program of treatment for diabetes type 1 details how to control diabetes. It includes all of the following: regular injections of insulin, frequent monitoring of blood sugar levels, careful attention to meals and food intake, and regular exercise that maintains a healthy weight.
The aim of all treatment for diabetes is to maintain a near normal level of insulin in the bloodstream so that the body’s normal functions can be carried out with as little disruption as possible. This in turn, should prevent or at least delay any harmful reactions in the body.
People living with diabetes will require life-long injections of insulin because the body’s production of normal insulin levels cannot be restored by natural means. Despite diabetes research, there is no known cure for this condition, and any cure would probably involve the restoration of the body’s ability to produce insulin on its own, without interference from the immune system.
Other drugs that may be required in the treatment for diabetes are high-blood pressure medications, aspirin, cholesterol-lowering medications and pramlintide.
What you need to know about type 1 diabetes is that the prognosis or outlook for patients diagnosed with diabetes has recently become much more favorable due to extensive diabetes research. Ten or twenty years ago, people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes had a life expectancy of as much as twenty years less than other people did. Now with recent improvements in the diabetes treatment programs for afflicted patients, this life expectancy reduction has been minimized dramatically and is now at a level very near that of people without the disease. A study published by the University of Pittsburgh in 2012 noted that people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes today might expect to live to age 69 on average.
What you need to know about type 1 diabetes, is that much still depends on certain conditions that are specific to each individual’s circumstances however. For instance, it is very important to detect the disease at an early stage, before serious damage can be done. Then too, a great deal depends on how quickly any diabetic complications progress and cause harm to the body. In some cases this can be very rapid, and in other cases damage proceeds at a much slower pace.
If there are any other health conditions present in the patient, these can have the effect of hastening the progress of the disease or complicating the effects of diabetes, and this can affect the overall outlook for a patient.
Following the diagnosis of diabetes, many patients go through a period of denial, with feelings of depression or despair, and a kind of rebellion against the diagnosis. If this persists, symptoms will undoubtedly worsen and serious health issues will result. But if the new life circumstances are acknowledged, accepted and dealt with in a mature manner, a long and healthy life can reasonably be expected for those living with diabetes.
The first thing that has to happen is an understanding of how to control diabetes and a commitment to manage the disease properly and constantly. This means taking all medications as prescribed, carefully monitoring carbohydrates and other food intake, exercising regularly and acquiring a diabetes education to improve your knowledge on the disease.
Diabetics should always carry some form of identification showing that they have the disease, and a glucagon kit should be kept on hand at all times in case an emergency injection becomes necessary. Friends and relatives should be instructed on how to do this as well, in the event that the patient becomes incapacitated and is unable to self-medicate.
What you need to know about type 1 diabetes, is that yearly physical exams should be scheduled to keep close watch on any deterioration in the body, and eye exams should be scheduled more frequently to monitor any unpleasant developments with the eyes.
Immunizations should all be kept up to date, so that no other health conditions complicate the diabetic condition. Blood pressure and cholesterol should be kept under control and not allowed to worsen the diabetes. Smokers should make every effort to quit smoking, and if a doctor’s help is needed to make this happen, it should be pursued as soon as possible. A great many complications like stroke and heart attack can be made more likely by smoking, so this is a “must-do” on the list of lifestyle changes for those living with diabetes.
Healthy food and exercise can help keep your blood sugar levels stable, however there is no specific diabetic diet plan. You might think that you need to avoid certain foods, but you can still enjoy the same healthy, balanced diet as everyone else. Some of the guidelines you should follow as part of a diabetic diet plan is to eat less unhealthy fat, such as saturated fats you find in bacon and butter, as they raise your chance of heart disease. You can also control your blood sugar levels better if you count the carbs in the food, as consuming a high amount of them can raise your blood sugar levels quickly.
Any diabetic who drinks alcohol must do so very responsibly, because it can cause either high blood sugar or low blood sugar, depending on whether something is eaten at the same time. This of course can trigger a strong reaction by the body that requires an immediate insulin injection to overcome the abnormal condition.
Stress is something that should be avoided to the greatest extent possible, because hormones produced by the body in times of stress can interfere with the effectiveness of insulin, and if that happens, it is almost the same as not having the insulin there at all.
Relaxation is important for diabetics, and proper amounts of sleep at night are a big contributor to a more peaceful state of mind. What you need to know about type 1 diabetes is that a well-rested body and mind is less stressed, and better able to cope with the daily requirements of being a diabetic.
Take extra care of your feet, as diabetes can cause you to lose the feeling in them and restrict the blood supply to your feet. Make sure you incorporate diabetic foot care into your diabetes plan to ensure your feet get the proper care they need. Our tips for diabetic foot care include checking your feet every day, in case you have cuts, sores or swelling which you may not have felt, wear comfortable shoes, wash your feet and keep them clean, cut or file your toenails regularly and if you have corns or calluses, consult your doctor about how to care for them.
Diabetes support groups can help you adjust to the fact that you have the disease. By talking to other people who are in a similar situation they can offer help and support at an important time. Consult your doctor to find local diabetes support groups near you.
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