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In type 1 diabetes the pancreas does not produce insulin because the cells which make insulin have been destroyed by the immune system.
Insulin replacement therapy is critical for the person with type 1 diabetes to live. It is as important to balance insulin replacement with physical activity, healthy eating and stress management to avoid or reduce the short and long term complications of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes accounts for 10-15% of all people with diabetes and usually occurs in people under 30 years, but can occur at any age.
Signs may include the following:
Type 1 diabetes is classified as an autoimmune condition. An autoimmune condition is where the body’s defence system (called the immune system) is triggered to attack healthy tissue.
In type 1 diabetes, the immune system is triggered by a gene or genes. People are born either with or without the genes (13 genes have been identified). People without the genes will not develop type 1 diabetes and people born with the gene may or may not develop type 1 diabetes.
This gene is thought to have been stimulated by an environmental event. Once the gene has been stimulated it triggers the immune system to attack the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin and slowly destroys them. The destruction of these cells reaches a critical point where there are not enough cells to produce enough insulin to control blood glucose levels, and the person then starts to develop the signs and symptoms of diabetes.
Insulin replacement therapy available today is given either by multiple daily injections of insulin or an insulin pump.
Another form of insulin replacement therapy is an islet cell (the cells that produce insulin) transplant. A transplant is not a cure, it is a different form of treatment. Depending on the circumstances, it may be an option. If so, it means weighing up the pros and cons of insulin therapy against the pros and cons of anti-rejection therapy and what is best suited to you. The best person to discuss this with is your diabetes specialist.
Finding a Cure
At this time, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes. It is hoped that the multiple research studies currently being conducted world-wide will lead to better knowledge about type 1 diabetes and, eventually, a cure.
Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adults
Latent autoimmune diabetes of adults (LADA) is a slow progressing form of type 1 diabetes that can be managed in the early stages without insulin therapy. It has been reported that many people with LADA are misdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Autoimmune condition: A condition where the immune system has been triggered to attack certain areas of the body and damage or destroy them. Examples of other autoimmune conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, a condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and coeliac dsease.
Environmental event: An occurrence where an outside, environmental factor can trigger changes in the body. In the diabetes, the environmental event is thought to be a virus which triggers an autoimmune response. Much research is being done worldwide to find, and eventually control, the impact of this environmental event.
Insulin: The hormone or chemical messenger that controls blood glucose levels by stopping them from going too high.
Islet Cells: The cells of the pancreas that produce insulin.
Pancreas: An organ in the body with multiple functions, one is producing insulin. The other functions are unaffected by diabetes.
Sick days with type 1 diabetes
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