Previously known as "juvenile diabetes," because it primarily affects children, we now know that type 1 diabetes can affect people at any age.
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In type 1 diabetes, a person's pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone necessary for the body to get energy from food. That energy, in the form of glucose, stays in the blood unless insulin is taken via injections or an insulin pump. By regularly checking blood sugar and calibrating food and insulin carefully, a person with type 1 diabetes can keep blood glucose levels in a safe range and help head off long-term health problems that can result from extended periods of high blood sugar.
How does type 1 diabetes develop?
Contrary to what people often say, type 1 diabetes is not caused by eating sugar. It is an autoimmune disease. Scientists aren't sure why, but the immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas as if they were a virus.2 Once a person has type 1 diabetes, they need insulin to live—no matter what they eat or do.
Living with type 1 diabetes
Insulin isn't a cure for type 1 diabetes—it simply replaces the insulin a healthy pancreas would make naturally.
By monitoring blood sugar levels, balancing food and exercise with insulin, and learning how lifestyle choices affect their bodies, people with type 1 diabetes can live normal lives and do anything people who don't have diabetes can do.3
Working closely with a healthcare team is key to managing diabetes properly and avoiding some of the issues that can occur if blood sugar isn't kept in a safe range. Too-high or too-low blood sugar levels can be dangerous, and over the years, high blood sugar can lead to a wide range of conditions affecting the eyes, hands, feet, heart and more.4 However, with a solid management plan and a good team of professionals on your side, being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes doesn't mean that these problems are inevitable.
- JDRF. What is type 1 diabetes? Available at: https://typeonenation.org/resources/general-t1d-information/what-is-type.... Accessed June 22, 2018.
- The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms and causes of diabetes. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/symptoms-.... Accessed June 22, 2018.
- American Diabetes Association. Living with type 1 diabetes. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/recently-diagnosed/living-w.... Accessed June 22, 2018.
- American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes—2018 [position statement]. Diabetes Care. 2018;41(1): S1-S172. Available at: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/diacare/suppl/2017/12/08/41.Sup.... Accessed June 22, 2018.