Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which your pancreas does not produce insulin, a hormone your body needs to maintain proper blood sugar levels. After you eat foods that contain carbohydrates, chemicals in your small intestine break them down into single sugar molecules called glucose. Next, the cells lining your small intestine absorb the glucose, which passes into the bloodstream. When the blood reaches your pancreas, beta cells inside the pancreas detect the rising glucose levels. The beta cells release insulin into your bloodstream to reduce glucose levels and to keep your blood glucose in a healthy range. Most cells of the body have certain receptors on their surface that bind to the circulating insulin. Insulin acts like a key in a lock to open up the cell so that the circulating glucose can get inside the cell. Now, your cell can use the glucose to produce the energy it needs to function properly. If you have type 1 diabetes, your pancreatic beta cells lose their ability to produce insulin, resulting in high blood glucose levels and other complications. In type 1 diabetes, your immune system, specifically your white blood cells, mistake your pancreatic beta cells for foreign invaders. In an autoimmune response, your white blood cells secrete autoantibodies that destroy your own beta cells. As a result, your pancreas produces little or no insulin. Without insulin, glucose cannot get into your cells, so they are starved for the calories they should be receiving from glucose. In addition, the glucose level builds up in your bloodstream, resulting in a condition
called hyperglycemia. Common symptoms of hyperglycemia in type 1
diabetes include: excessive hunger; excessive thirst; frequent urination; unexplained weight loss; fatigue; weakness; irritability; and blurry vision. If hyperglycemia is not treated, you can become severely ill. Because you don’t have enough insulin circulating in your blood, your cells can’t use glucose for energy. As a result, your body breaks down your fat and protein stores as an alternative source of energy. As fat breakdown continues, certain byproducts, known as ketone bodies, accumulate in the blood, resulting in a condition called ketosis. When ketones build up to dangerously high levels, a life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis results. If your blood glucose remains high over time, long term health problems can occur, such as: atherosclerosis; blindness; nerve damage; and kidney disease. If you have type 1 diabetes, your goal is to keep your blood glucose within a normal range. This is done through a combination of proper insulin replacement, monitoring your blood glucose, and, just as importantly, eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. Because your pancreas no longer produces insulin, you will need to take insulin to replace what your body should be making. A licensed healthcare professional can train you to inject the insulin just under the skin. You will need to give yourself injections several times each day, and rotate injection sites to avoid tissue damage and absorption problems. Another way to get insulin is through an insulin pump, which is attached to your body and delivers insulin through a tube implanted just under your skin. You will need to check the level of glucose in your blood several times a day with a glucometer. To do this, you will prick your finger with a small needle called a lancet, and place a drop of blood in the glucometer. Knowledge of your blood glucose level allows you to adjust your insulin dose, calories you eat during meals, and physical activity. You will need to eat a healthy diet and get
regular exercise to manage your glucose level and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.