Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes starts with an organ in the body called the pancreas. The pancreas is only about 6 inches long but its functions are vital for survival. The pancreas has two primary functions. Its first role is to release enzymes into the gastrointestinal tract to help with digestion. Its second role is to release insulin. Insulin allows glucose into the cells were is can be used as energy or stored for later in the liver, muscles and kidneys.
Interestingly, 99% of the pancreas function revolves around releasing enzymes to help with digestion. Meaning insulin is a very small part of its role.
So a 6 inch organ, of which only 1% of its function is dedicated to controlling blood glucose levels, is the reason behind type 1 diabetes.
What is type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. This means your immune system has targeted the cells of the pancreas that release insulin and destroys them. This leaves the person unable to control their own blood glucose levels and until the discovery of insulin this was a death sentence.
Contrary to popular belief, you are not born with type 1 diabetes. You develop it. The overwhelming majority of people who develop type 1 will do so in childhood. There are though, those individuals who develop diabetes well into adulthood.
What are the symptoms of type 1 diabetes?
If you’re reading this you have likely experienced these. The symptoms for type 1 come on rather rapidly. They include weight loss, thirst, dry mouth, blurred vision, genital itching, tiredness and fatigue amongst others.
The person developing type 1 diabetes can become acutely unwell and if left untreated the condition will be fatal.
What causes type 1 diabetes?
The simple answer is, we don’t know. There are many theories such as viral infections, shock, illness, genetics but we actually do not know at present.
How is type 1 diabetes managed?
Due to the fact your body no longer produces insulin, you will need to take insulin lifelong.
Usually, you will take one long acting insulin. This provides coverage for your body for around 24 hours and essentially works in the background. We call this your background insulin.
You will also take a rapid acting insulin with meals. This is matches blood sugar spikes when you eat and prevents sugar levels rising too much after meals. We call this your rapid or fast acting insulin. We call this a basal bolus insulin regime. I have previously blogged about this here.
For a better understanding of diabetes here is a video: