Categories: Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus – Symptoms and Causes

Understanding Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, Symptoms, Causes and Management – Type 1 diabetes or Juvenile diabetes is the condition in the beta cells of pancreas stop producing insulin. Our immune system accidentally destroys the insulin-secreting cells, which help to process blood sugar (digested food components) to fuel body cells. The function of insulin is to transfer the blood sugar in the cells to use it as the energy source.

By the destruction of the insulin-secreting cell, the body loses the ability to produce insulin. This results in an increase in blood sugar or glucose level in the bloodstream. The high blood sugar level may lead to Type 1 diabetes. This is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes or secondary diabetes, most common in kids between the age of 10 to 16.

This is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks its own body cells. However, the factors trigger the destruction of insulin-producing cells are still under study. According to observation, diabetes type 1 is more likely to appear in kids with diabetic family history. If not handled carefully, Type 1 diabetes mellitus can lead to many other severe health problems like kidney failure, blindness or neuropathy.

In this article, we will discuss complete detail of type 1 diabetes, its early symptoms, cause, complications, prevention and management.

For prediabetes or borderline sugar guide click here.

Causes of Type 1 Diabetes

In Type 1 diabetes mellitus, the immune system that protects us from antigens or foreign bodies mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas (also referred to as islets of Langerhans). However, the triggering agents are still unclear that stimulates our immune system to attack pancreatic cells.

According to the American Diabetes Association, the type 1 diabetes may be more common in people with the diabetic history or it may also be due to environmental factors (like migration across the equator or vitamin deficiency). The presence of certain genes in kids increases the risk of diabetes type 1.

The disease can be observed in all ages but the critical period is between the age of 4 to 7 and 10 to 14. The type 1 diabetes can also be due to any autoimmune disease in the past such as vitiligo or Grave’s disease.

Early Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

Heavy Thirst, Dehydrations and Uncontrolled Weight Loss

Type 1 diabetes precedes high blood sugar level in the bloodstream, results in heavy thirst, dry mouth and excessive urination cause dehydration. Due to dehydration, the body loses much of the water that leads to uncontrolled weight loss.


The cells get deprived of energy due to a lack of insulin to process body glucose. Therefore, the body seeks for an alternative energy source and the liver starts to secrete ketones in the blood. They are acidic when their level rises in the bloodstream, it causes ketoacidosis, which can cause severe health issues like heart diseases, affects nervous or coma may lead to the death of the person.

Other Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

There may issue of confusion and shaking, abdominal pain, less often the loss of consciousness and smelly or rapid breath.

The other symptoms of high blood sugar or type 1 diabetes are, increase in hunger, nausea, vomiting, weakens the body (fatigue), eyesight problem, skin infection or infection in tract urinary tract or vagina and heavy breathing or respiratory problem (Kussmaul).

Diagnostic tests for Type 1 Diabetes

Some of the tests are named below which can be helpful for diagnosis of type 1 diabetes

Haemoglobin A1c test (HbA1c)

HbA1c or glycohemoglobin is the test used to measure the average glucose level in your blood over the last 2 – 3 months. A diabetic patient has the HbA1c level of 6.5% or above.

Oral Glucose Tolerance test (OBTT)

OBTT is also a commonly used test to diagnose type 1 diabetes. This is the measure of your blood glucose after the 2 hours of intake of 75 grams of glucose. The person has a glucose level of 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) or above, is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Fasting Plasma Glucose test (FGS)

The blood samples are taken after 8 hours of fasting. A normal person has blood sugar level 70 to 100 mg/dL whereas a diabetic person will have a blood glucose level 126 mg/dL or above.

Random Blood Glucose test

If your blood has sugar level 200 mg/dL or above in any time of the day then it is an indication of diabetes.

Complications of Type 1 Diabetes

The type 1 diabetes, even after diagnosis and treatment can cause severe health complications such as

Kidney Damage or Nephropathy

The kidney contains about 1 million nephrons whose function is to separate water and ions and to filter the toxins and waste from your bloodstream. The high blood sugar level significantly damages and cause irreversible kidney failure. In result, you may need dialysis or kidney transfer.

Nerve Damage or Neuropathy

Lack of insulin builds up the glucose level in your blood which damages capillaries or blood vessel in your body that fuels nerve cells. The condition cause legs numbness, tingling, pain or burning from the tip of the toe to upward direction. If the high blood sugar level is not controlled, it can further level to complete loss of feeling sense in hand or legs.

Nerve damage in the feet increases the risk of foot infections like blisters and cuts. Healing is extremely slow due to poor blood circulation. In serious cases, foot or leg amputation may be required.

Erectile dysfunction can be seen in men in case of chronic issues. The neuropathy can also affect gastrointestinal tract which causes metabolic problems like nausea, vomiting, constipation or maybe diarrhoea.

Eye Damage or Retinopathy

High blood sugar level can damage or cause proliferation of the vessel that transfer blood to the retina which senses the light and helps in the visibility.

The damage of the blood vessel can also cause bleeding in the retina of your eye. Uncontrolled type 1 diabetes can eventually lead to blindness or loss of eyesight. However, blood leakage due to the proliferation of blood vessels can be controlled by laser therapy.

Heart Disease or Cardiovascular Issues

Mishandled Type 1 diabetes can precede to various cardiovascular issues like angina attacks, high blood pressure problem, stroke, narrowing of arteries (also referred to as atherosclerosis) or maybe a heart attack.

Low blood sugar or Hypoglycemia

There can be a problem of low blood sugar due to use of excessive insulin injections or diabetes medicines. The symptoms of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia are fatigue, dizziness, sudden sweating, trembling, confusion, irritability, headache or maybe a blurry vision. If the condition is not handled, the patient can lead to coma.

The low blood sugar level can be treated by giving the person an ample amount of carbohydrates or injection of Glucagon can also help to solve the problem. It will help the liver to release glucose in the bloodstream to bring sugar at the normal level.


There is no evident way to stop type 1 diabetes whereas you can adopt a healthy lifestyle and do exercise by avoiding the triggers that can cause diabetes. Vitamin D deficiency also increases the risk of diabetes type 1, take sufficient vitamin supplements and kids should take cow’s milk to lessen the chances of diabetes.

You need to pay attention to mental health and do not take the stress. Exercise and meditation can be helpful in this matter.

Treatment and Management

Most of the people can live a healthy life, even after diabetes. For a healthy life, you should have a balanced diet, daily physical activities and a healthy mind. Medicines should be used according to the doctor’s prescription.

You should properly monitor and do regular checkups of your blood sugar level to avoid ketoacidosis or hypoglycemia. Diabetic patients take insulin to maintain their blood sugar level. Their high or low amount can cause complications.

To avoid the problem you should have an idea about the “onset” (time takes insulin to reach your blood and starts action), “peak time” (lowers sugar level) and “duration” (for how long it is effective).

  • The rapid-acting insulin injection begins to act in about 15 minutes and the peak time is 1 hour and the duration is 2 to 4 hours.
  • In case of regular or short-acting insulin, injection onset is 30 minutes, the peak is 2 to 3 hours and the duration is 3 to 6 hours.
  • The onset for the intermediate-acting insulin is 2 to 4 hours after intake, the peak is between 4 to 12 hours and keeps working for 12 to 18 hours.
  • Long-lasting insulin injection works in several hours and lasts for 24 hours.

The injection may be taken by syringes or by semiautomatic injector pens (they can precisely measure the insulin amount). The use of healthy diet is suggested to diabetic patients, they are asked to use good carbs and good fats diet and a regular exercise for a healthy life.


Botanist (MS)

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