Diabetes means your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. With type 1 diabetes, your pancreas does not make insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose get into your cells to give them energy. Without insulin, too much glucose stays in your blood. Over time, high blood glucose can lead to serious problems with your heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves, and gums and teeth.
Type 1 diabetes happens most often in children and young adults but can appear at any age. It accounts for about 5 to 10 percent of diagnosed diabetes in the United States. Symptoms of diabetes may include: being very thirsty; urinating often; feeling very hungry or tired; losing weight without trying; having sores that heal slowly; having dry, itchy skin; losing the feeling in your feet or having tingling in your feet; and having blurry eyesight. If not diagnosed and treated with insulin, a person can lapse into a life-threatening diabetic coma, also known as diabetic ketoacidosis. A blood test can show if you have type 1 diabetes.
Lack of insulin production by the pancreas makes type 1 diabetes particularly difficult to control. Treatment requires a strict regimen that typically includes a carefully calculated diet, planned physical activity, home blood glucose testing several times a day, and multiple daily insulin injections.
As a person with diabetes, your daily routine involves schedules and planning. An emergency can seriously affect your health. It may be difficult to cope with a disaster when it occurs. You and your family should plan and prepare beforehand even if the event is loss of electricity for a few hours.
Doctors recommend that diabetics who take insulin check their blood glucose levels four times a day. But piercing a nerve-rich fingertip and squeezing out a drop of blood onto a test strip is painful, and often deters people from checking any more than just once.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, in which the body's white blood cells kill the islet cells that make insulin in the pancreas. Endocrinologists treat diabetes with diet and medications, which may include insulin.