Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile-onset diabetes. While diabetes typically strikes adults, the National Institutes of Health reports that more than 100,000 children and teenagers (age 19 and younger) have diabetes.

Diabetes has to do with metabolism—how our bodies use the food we eat. When we eat, our bodies break most of the food down into a simple sugar called glucose. The glucose then passes into our bloodstream and is circulated throughout the body. Our body’s cells use glucose for growth and energy. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, is needed for the glucose to be able to get into the cells. Usually, when we eat, the pancreas makes the right amount of insulin needed.

Type 1 diabetes is regarded as an autoimmune disease because in this case a person’s immune system attacks the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin and destroys them. Scientists don’t know why the immune system attacks the beta cells, but the result is that the person’s body stops producing insulin. When that happens, glucose builds up in the blood, but the body’s cells starve to death.

Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes usually develop over a short period of time and include increased thirst, frequent urination, constant hunger, weight loss, blurred vision and extreme fatigue. People with Type 1 diabetes require daily injections of insulin to survive. According to the National Institutes of Health, 5 to 10 percent of the diagnosed diabetes cases in the United States is Type 1 diabetes.