Type 1 Diabetes

Having diabetes is a serious issue, but it’s not something that can’t be controlled. If you have Type I diabetes, you have probably had it since birth, or at least since you were very young. Making sure your blood sugar was low enough, but not too low, probably became a priority. If you have a loved one who has just been diagnosed, making sure they get proper treatment and an understanding of their condition is going to be important, as well. No matter whether it’s you or someone you care about, living with Type I diabetes can be stressful, and it’s not a condition that can be reversed or cured in the standard sense.

For those who have Type II diabetes, there is the opportunity to make lifestyle changes that can make the condition less severe or even reverse it, but Type I diabetes occurs because the pancreas simply doesn’t make enough insulin. This is also sometimes called insulin-dependent diabetes, and it is not the same type of condition as Type II. When the pancreas doesn’t make insulin, you have to rely on an external source of that compound. For most people that involves injections when they eat or at other times during the day, and for some severe cases the use of a 24/7 insulin pump may be a better, safer choice.

If you think you may have Type I diabetes, seeing your doctor right away can help you make a plan of action and take care of yourself the right way. It can also rule out other causes of any symptoms you might be having, and help protect your body from damage that you might otherwise sustain without knowing about your condition. In addition to talking to your doctor, there are some changes you can make to your lifestyle so your condition will be easier to manage. That can help you find a new normal, and get focused on making sure you take proper care of yourself.

What is Blood Sugar, and Why Does It Matter?

In order to understand Type I diabetes, it’s important to understand the role insulin plays in controlling your blood sugar, or blood glucose. Your body manufactures insulin in the pancreas using special cells called beta cells. When insulin is working correctly it takes the sugar you consume and gets it into your muscles, liver, and fat cells, where your body can either use the sugar right away to keep you moving or store the energy in sugar for later use. If for any reason there isn’t enough insulin to handle the sugar effectively, it will be released into the blood stream instead, leading to high blood sugar levels.

What’s the problem with high blood sugar? A high level of sugar in your blood is basically like slowly being poisoned, because high blood sugar leads to hardening of the arteries and other damage to blood vessels, and this damage in turn creates problems with your kidneys, vision, and nerves, along with other organs and systems. Virtually anything in your body can be harmed by the blood vessel damage that comes with blood sugar levels that are consistently too high.

What Are the Causes of Type I Diabetes?

This is why Type I diabetes is so dangerous. In Type I diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin to regulate blood sugar in the body. Because of that, blood sugar (glucose) levels rise, and stay elevated. Anytime you eat something with sugar in it, or something that is a simple carbohydrate which gets converted into sugar, your blood sugar levels go up. When you have a working pancreas, it produces insulin in the right amounts to bring blood sugar levels back down and protect your body from damage. With Type I diabetes, that mechanism isn’t working, so sugar stays high.

How Do You Recognize Diabetes Symptoms?

For people who have diabetes, headaches, weight loss, excessive thirst, and frequent urination are common. There is also sugar in the urine in a number of cases, and often those suffering from diabetes have blurred vision and other visual disturbances. Some symptoms may not be recognized as diabetes, however, and some people will have more symptoms than others. If you pay close attention to your body, you can often tell when something is wrong. But that’s not always the case, and blood sugar testing is essential for a diagnosis.

The symptoms of Type I diabetes can be subtle, but they’re rarely as subtle as they are in Type II, which often appears over time as blood sugar levels gradually rise. In fact, when people have Type I diabetes, the symptoms tend to be more serious and severe. Type I usually arises because the body mistakes the insulin producing cells in the pancreas for invaders and destroys them. This attack may take some time or it may be rapid, depending on the person, but the result is the same, and once the pancreas has stopped producing enough insulin blood sugar levels can rise and get out of control very quickly.

Can You Control Your Risk Factors?

Unfortunately, there really aren’t any specific risk factors for Type I diabetes that you can control. Unlike Type II, which can often be controlled with diet and exercise, Type I diabetes is mostly genetic. If you have a parent who has it, your risk is higher. Some people are genetically more predisposed to have this condition. Age is also a factor, with most people developing Type I diabetes either between the ages of four and seven, or between the ages of 10 and 14. This is not always the case, of course, but there are the most common peaks during which Type I diabetes appears in the majority of people who have it.

There have been other types of risk factors that have been investigated, as well, but no definitive link has been seen. These potential factors include things like drinking water that has nitrites in it, exposure to certain types of viruses, not getting enough vitamin D, early exposure to cow’s milk, gluten in baby foods, and other considerations. At this time, however, no link between Type I diabetes and these other factors has been proven.

Are There Serious Complications With This Condition?

As with many chronic conditions, there is the potential for serious complications. These can include heart attacks, strokes, blindness, loss of limbs, and death. Kidney and nerve damage can also occur. As mentioned previously, Type I diabetes affects all of the organs in the body, primarily through the damage it does to the blood vessels. Nerve damage and heart or blood vessel disease are the most common, long-term complications of Type I diabetes, but the more normal and stable you keep your blood sugar levels the less likely you are to experience them. If you do have complications, they will generally be milder and less dangerous with good blood sugar control.

Bacterial and fungal infections of the skin are more common in people with diabetes, too, as are pregnancy complications in women who choose to have children. That doesn’t mean that every case of athlete’s foot means you have diabetes, or that a woman with Type I diabetes can’t successfully bear children. However, recurrent infections should be investigated, and diabetic women who want to have children should talk with their doctors. That way they can get the help and guidance they need to manage their pregnancy and their condition. They will also have a better idea of what complications to expect.

To prevent or lessen the severity of these complications, you will need to use external insulin and use it in the right amounts. Too little, and you could still have dangerously high blood sugar. Too much, and your sugar could go too low. That can cause you to pass out, and that could be very dangerous, especially if you fall and get hurt, or if you’re engaged in an activity like driving. Controlling your sugar levels as a Type I diabetic is a vital part of managing your condition, and diligence is required in order to be sure you’re keeping those levels in check as much as possible so you can live an full, active, and happy life.

And a full, active, happy life is definitely a possibility even if you have Type I diabetes. The better your blood sugar control, the less likely you will be to struggle with health problems. Still, it’s important that you remember this is a lifelong condition. While it can be frustrating at times to have to monitor your sugars so much, you don’t want to get lax about your blood sugar control. You’ll always have this condition, but you can learn more about it, take control of your disease, and appreciate all the good things this world has to offer, all while keeping your blood sugar in check and staying healthy.

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