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Understanding Type 1 Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

CEO Tinh Phung
People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day. Introduction Type 1 diabetes affects millions of people worldwide, disrupting their daily lives and requiring constant management. In this article, we will explore the...

A young woman injecting herself with insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day.


Type 1 diabetes affects millions of people worldwide, disrupting their daily lives and requiring constant management. In this article, we will explore the key aspects of type 1 diabetes, including its causes, symptoms, and available treatments.

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Insulin helps regulate blood glucose levels, which is vital for energy production. Without adequate insulin, glucose cannot enter the cells, causing a rise in blood sugar levels. Individuals with type 1 diabetes require daily insulin injections to stay alive.

Who is more likely to develop type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes typically manifests in children and young adults, although it can occur at any age. Genetic factors play a significant role, and having a family member with the disease increases the risk. It is estimated that around 5 percent of people with diabetes in the United States have type 1 diabetes.

What are the symptoms of type 1 diabetes?

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes can appear rapidly over a few days to weeks and include increased thirst and urination, increased hunger, blurred vision, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. In some cases, these symptoms may be a sign of a life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which requires immediate medical attention.

What causes type 1 diabetes?

Researchers believe that type 1 diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic factors and environmental triggers, such as certain viruses. Ongoing studies, like TrialNet, aim to uncover the precise causes of type 1 diabetes.

How is type 1 diabetes diagnosed?

Healthcare professionals diagnose type 1 diabetes based on symptoms and blood tests. The random plasma glucose (RPG) test measures blood glucose levels at a specific point in time, while the A1C blood test determines how long blood glucose levels have been elevated. Additional tests can be conducted to identify specific autoantibodies that are common in type 1 diabetes but not in type 2 diabetes.

How is type 1 diabetes treated?

Insulin is the mainstay of treatment for individuals with type 1 diabetes. Different types of insulin with varying speeds and durations of action may be required. Insulin can be administered through a needle and syringe, an insulin pen, or an insulin pump. In some cases, additional medications may be prescribed to help manage blood glucose levels.

How else can type 1 diabetes be managed?

In addition to insulin and medications, daily self-care plays a crucial role in managing type 1 diabetes. This includes following a diabetes meal plan, engaging in regular physical activity, monitoring blood glucose levels, and working closely with a healthcare team to develop an individualized care plan. Maintaining optimal blood glucose levels before pregnancy is essential for individuals planning to have a baby.

Are there any other treatment options?

Advancements in technology have led to the development of artificial pancreas systems, which aim to automate blood glucose monitoring and insulin delivery. These systems continuously monitor glucose levels and adjust insulin delivery accordingly. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) has played a crucial role in funding research and supporting studies on artificial pancreas devices.

Potential health problems associated with type 1 diabetes

Consistently elevated blood glucose levels can lead to various health problems, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye problems, dental disease, nerve damage, foot problems, depression, and sleep apnea. Proper management of blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, along with following a self-care plan, can help prevent or delay the onset of these complications.

Can type 1 diabetes be prevented?

Currently, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. However, ongoing research, such as TrialNet, aims to identify potential strategies to prevent or delay the development of the disease.


Type 1 diabetes is a complex condition that requires lifelong management. Understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and seeking appropriate treatment are essential for individuals living with this chronic illness. By staying informed and closely working with healthcare professionals, individuals with type 1 diabetes can lead healthy and fulfilling lives.


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National diabetes statistics report, 2017. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/statistics/national-diabetes-statistics-report.pdf (PDF, 1.3 MB) . Updated July, 18 2017. Accessed August 1, 2017.