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Understanding Type 1 Diabetes: Symptoms, causes and treatment

Team AckoJan 17, 2024

According to the IDF Global Diabetes Atlas data, India ranks among the top three countries that have the highest rate of diabetes. This highlights the need for people to be aware of the condition and take timely action.

This article will help you understand the symptoms, causes, and treatment available for Type 1 Diabetes.




What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 Diabetes, is a serious health condition in which the individual’s pancreas is not able to make insulin. This hormone helps the body use glucose (sugar) to fuel itself. When you lack this hormone, your blood glucose level increases, which makes you thirsty, and you tend to urinate frequently. High sugar in your blood damages your body and causes many other health ailments. 

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

Signs of this condition are subtle and can take months to get noticed. Also, symptoms can become severe if the disease is left untreated. The signs of high blood sugar that can appear suddenly are as follows.

  • Dry mouth

  • Extreme thirst

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Frequent urination

  • Blurry vision

  • Tiredness and weakness

  • Bedwetting in children who have never wet the bed while sleeping

  • Frequent infections of the skin and urinary tract (UTI)

  • Increased hunger

  • Vomiting and nausea

  • Feeling of numbness or tingling in the feet

Serious signs of Type 1 Diabetes that need urgent treatment include the following.

  • Deep rapid breathing

  • Shaking

  • The fruity smell in your breath

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Stomach pain

Signs of low blood sugar occur when the blood glucose levels fall below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Also, the following symptoms can occur in diabetics who are on insulin.

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Irritability

  • Weakness

  • Headache

  • Sweating

  • Hunger

  • Shaking

Also, read: Signs And Symptoms Of Diabetes

Causes of Type 1 Diabetes

The exact causes of this condition are still not known. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is an autoimmune disease in which healthy cells in the body attack themselves by mistake. It means that this condition occurs when the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

Further, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), genetics can also play a major role in developing this problem. Other possible causes can be exposure to viruses and a bad diet. Sometimes the combination of all these factors can trigger the condition and make it severe.

Factors that can increase the risk of Type 1 Diabetes

The following factors can increase the risks of developing Type 1 Diabetes.

  • Hormones: Some hormonal conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, can raise your odds.

  • Family history: Those with a parent or sibling with this condition are at increased risk.

  • Physical stress: Any type of surgery can cause this problem.

  • Illness: Injury to the pancreas by infection, surgery, tumour, and accident may put you at higher risk.

  • Sedentary lifestyle: Prolonged sitting and lack of exercise can increase the chances.

  • Poor diet: Overconsumption leads to many health issues, and of them is obesity. It can make one prone to this condition. 

Possible complications

This health problem can affect major organs in the body. Also, its complications may result in disabilities and can even threaten the individual’s life. After several years, it can cause following health issues if not well-controlled.

  • Kidney damage which can result in kidney failure or end-stage kidney disease.

  • Heart and blood vessel diseases such as high blood pressure, heart attack, chest pain, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and stroke.

  • Mouth problems such as the dry mouth and gum disease.

  • Nerve damage that can cause burning, tingling, pain, and numbness. This can even result in erectile dysfunction in men.

  • Skin conditions like bacterial or function infections and blisters or rash.

  • Foot damage which can cause foot complications and, if left untreated, may require amputation.

  • Vision problems like glaucoma and cataracts.

  • Pregnancy complications such as birth defects, stillbirth, and miscarriage.

  • A weak immune system that makes individuals prone to infections.

How to diagnose Type 1 Diabetes

Doctors diagnose this condition through a range of tests which are as follows.

  • Fasting blood sugar: If the levels are equal to and above 126 mg/dL on two different tests, then it confirms the disease.

  • Non-fasting blood glucose: If random blood sugar levels are equal to or above 200 mg/dL, along with signs such as frequent urination, increased thirst, and fatigue, then the individual has diabetes. Also, this level should be confirmed with a fasting level test.

  • Glycated Haemoglobin (A1C) test: The individual has this health problem if the test result is equal to or higher than 6.5%.

  • Oral glucose tolerance test: If the sugar level is equal to or higher than 200 mg/dL two hours after consuming a sugar drink, then it confirms the condition.

It is vital that the individuals undergo all these tests. Also, sometimes people with Type 1 Diabetes are misdiagnosed as having Type 2 Diabetes. This is because the procedure for diagnosing Type 2 Diabetes is pretty similar. A healthcare professional may not realise it until the symptoms become worse. That is why individuals should observe the symptoms they have been facing and talk about them with their doctor. This will help their doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment options for Type 1 Diabetes

Individuals with this health condition have to take care of their blood glucose levels. And as their body cannot create insulin, they would need it from outside sources to make their body use the sugar to fuel itself.

Your doctor will suggest you take insulin or may keep you on the medication as well. The two treatments are as follows.

1. Insulin

Individuals with this condition need insulin every day to control their blood sugar. It can be taken through injections as it mostly comes in a small glass bottle. There are different types of insulin available such as prefilled pens, insulin pumps, and inhalers. Further, insulin is categorised into the following.

  • Rapid-acting insulin: It begins work in 15 minutes and lasts for 2 to 4 hours.

  • Regular or short-acting insulin: It kicks in 30 minutes and keeps working for 3 to 6 hours

  • Intermediate-acting insulin: It tends to start working in 2 to 4 hours, and its effects continue for 12 to 18 hours.

  • Long-acting insulin: It takes many hours to set off, and you can expect it to continue working for up to 24 hours.

2. Oral medications

Your doctor may prescribe you medications such as Metformin, which helps reduce the production of sugar in the liver. In some cases, individuals are advised to consume this drug in addition to insulin.

It is crucial to keep an eye on your blood sugar levels and seek a doctor’s help whenever you notice any changes in your health. Also, make sure to eat well, stay physically active, manage your stress and take your insulin shots and medications on time to live a healthy life.

Frequently asked questions

Here is a rundown of some common questions related to Type 1 Diabetes.


Which age group is at the most risk of Type 1 Diabetes?

It can develop at any age, but it is most prevalent among people aged less than 40 years.

Can Type 1 Diabetes be stopped?

There is no cure for this condition. However, it can be controlled by making lifestyle changes and taking insulin regularly.

What triggers Type 1 Diabetes?

This condition occurs when the immune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells (healthy cells) in the body. Well, factors such as genes and viruses may trigger the disease.

Is Type 1 Diabetes hereditary?

In most cases, people inherit this disease from their parents.

How to control diabetes?

You can control your diabetes by eating a well-balanced diet, staying active, managing your stress, quitting smoking, and taking medications and insulin regularly.

What is the life expectancy for Type 1 Diabetes patients?

This condition is mostly diagnosed at a young age. Individuals can lead a long life without getting much affected by the disease. However, according to a report by Diabetes UK, this condition can reduce the lifespan by approximately ten years.

Is Type 1 Diabetes dangerous?

Individuals with diabetes need to monitor their blood glucose levels and report to the doctor if they see any changes in their health. If left untreated, this condition can become life-threatening.


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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