Type 1 Diabetes, Causes, Risks, Diagnosis and Treatments

Type 1 diabetes has become one of the most common chronic diseases characterized by the destruction of insulin-forming cells in the pancreas and the body’s inability to make insulin.

Insulin is a very important hormone that aids your body’s cells in the proper usage of glucose for energy. Your body receives glucose from different food sources. And insulin ensures proper passage of glucose from the blood into the body’s cells.

Your muscle tissues and liver store the glucose left after proper usage from the cells. The extra glucose are also called “blood sugar” and are restored in glycogen. When your body is overly exhausted and requires more energy, the stored blood sugar is broken down and released in the bloodstream.

In the state of diabetes type 1, your body is unable to process the glucose correctly due to insufficient insulin. The glucose you get from your food can’t breakdown on its own. And this results in excessive circulation of glucose in the blood, and that’s why termed as “high blood sugar”. High blood sugar may cause a wide range of short-term and long-term problems. In this write-up, we will deal with various important aspects of diabetes type 1 to be informed and when you get symptoms of diabetes type 1. It will help you to get proper and timely treatment. Let’s read out to find more.

Diabetes Type 1 Symptoms

The patient may get some subtle signs and symptoms, but they may get severe if not managed properly on time. Some common symptoms include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Increased hunger (especially after eating)
  • Dry mouth
  • Upset stomach and vomiting
  • Frequent urination
  • blurred vision
  • Frequent infections of your skin, vagina, or urinary tract
  • Crankiness or mood changes
  • Bedwetting is a child who’s been dry at night
  • Unexplained and sudden weight loss, even though you’re eating and feel hungry
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Heavy, laboured breathing (your doctor may call this Kussmaul respiration)

Signs of diabetes type 1 that usually call for a medical emergency

  • Rapid breathing
  • The fruity smell from breath
  • Confusion and shaking
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of consciousness

Causes of Type 1 Diabetes

Unfortunately, the exact cause of diabetes type 1 is still unknown. But here is a theory backed by a lot of doctors, especially diabetes experts.

Insulin hormone ensures proper glucose movement into different tissues around the body and used by them as fuel. Diabetes type 1 damages the beta cells and disrupts the process completely. Due to the lack or absence of insulin, the movement of glucose is completely deranged. Instead, there is a build-up of glucose in the blood, and your body cells start starving for glucose.

Complications of Diabetes Type 1

Unlike most other health problems, diabetes type 1 is linked with various other complications. If not controlled on time, a person with diabetes type 1 may suffer from a combination of health problems, including:

  • Dehydration: When the blood sugar level is elevated, you start peeing more. And that’s how your body tries to remove extra sugar from the blood for some time. A good amount of water gets out of your body through urine, causing excessive dehydration.
  • Weight Loss: The unnecessary removal of glucose through your urine also takes enough calories with it. And that’s why people with high blood sugar notice sudden, unexpected weight loss. Continuous and prolonged dehydration is also responsible for type 1 diabetes-induced weight loss.
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA): If your body is unable to get the required glucose as fuel. It starts breaking down the fat cells instead. The unwanted breakdown of fat cells creates chemicals known as “ketones”. In response, your liver starts releasing the stored sugar for help. But your body is unable to use it due to absence or lack of insulin. And hence, the sugar builds up in your blood with the acidic ketones. This combination of dehydration, excessive glucose, and build-up of ketones is known as “ketoacidosis”, and can sometimes be lethal if not treated timely.
  • Damage to Your Body: Excessive glucose in your blood may also harm your body over time. It can affect the small blood vessels, nerves, heart, eyes, and kidneys etc. It may also result in hardening of arteries known as “atherosclerosis, ” resulting in strokes, and even heart attacks.
  • Cardiovascular Disease: It is among the major complications of diabetes type 1, especially if not given proper and timely attention. In fact, both types of diabetes increase the risk of high blood pressure, blood clots, and cholesterol. All these complications may lead to chest pain, stroke, heart attack, and even heart failure.
  • Skin Problems: Both types of diabetes are also responsible for a higher risk of getting a bacterial or fungal infection. Diabetic patients get affected by blisters and rashes very easily.
  • Gum Diseases: The combination of poor blood flow to mouth, excessive plaque, and a lack of saliva may be responsible for various gum problems.
  • Problems Related to Pregnancy: Women having type 1 diabetes are at high risk of pregnancy problems, including premature delivery, birth defects, and stillbirth etc.
  • Retinopathy: Retinopathy is an eye-related problem and affects more than 70% of people with 12 to 15 years of diabetes type 1. It’s not common before puberty. Keeping good control of blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides is very important to maintain good eyesight in type 1 diabetes.
  • Damage to Kidney: Nephropathy is a condition affecting about 20 to 30% of people having type 1 diabetes. The chances of nephropathy increase if diabetes is not controlled properly on time. Nephropathy is usually seen after 15 to 25 years of onset of diabetes. Chronic and uncontrolled diabetes type 1 may also lead to some serious conditions like kidney failure.
  • Poor Blood Flow and Nerve Damage: Hardened arteries and damaged nerves are responsible for improper blood supply, especially to feet. This increases the chances of injuries and hampers the process of wound healing. In such a scenario, the person may also end up losing a limb, maybe both! Some other and unexpected problems like nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting may also affect the patient with damaged nerves.

Type 1 Diabetes Risk Factors

Risk factors related to type 1 diabetes are not yet understood properly. However, experts have identified some potential factors.

Diabetes type 1 is not common, as it affects only 5% of overall diabetic patients.

It affects both sexes equally.

Some Other Important Type 1 Diabetes Risk Factors

  • Family History: Family history may play an important role in some cases of diabetes type 1. If you have one or both parent(s) or sibling(s) with type 1 diabetes, you should be on high alert, and take proper care of yourself.

Some specific genes are believed to be linked with a familial transfer of diabetes type 1. However, not everyone with these “specific genes” is at risk. According to many researchers and doctors, some unknown trigger may be responsible for diabetes type 1 in some groups of people, and not others.

  • Race: Interestingly and coincidentally, white people are at higher risk of getting type 1 diabetes when compared to brown or black people.
  • Other Environmental Factors:

Surprisingly, rarely, but some viruses are also responsible for triggering type 1 diabetes. However, we are not yet assured about the specific type of viruses.

Similarly, people living in cold climates are at higher risk of getting type 1 diabetes. Doctors usually notice high cases of diabetes in winter in comparison to the summer.

Diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes

Doctors usually recommend a series of medical investigations for a correct diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Some tests are usually performed quickly, while some require lengthy preparation or observations.

The development of type 1 diabetes is generally quick. The diagnosis is confirmed when there are one or more of the following criteria:

  • Fasting blood sugar > 126 mg/dL on two separate tests
  • Random blood sugar > 200 mg/dL, with other symptoms of diabetes type 1
  • Hemoglobin A1c > 6.5 on two separate tests

Doctors follow the same criteria for diagnosing type 2 diabetes as well. In fact, due to very close similarities in symptoms, diabetes type 1 is misdiagnosed with diabetes type 2.

And misdiagnosis usually goes unnoticed until the doctor observes worsening of symptoms and some new or severe complications even after starting treatment.

When there is a severe rise in blood sugar level, causing diabetic ketoacidosis, the patient starts feeling severely ill. And that’s often the reason people end up getting admitted in a hospital or doctor’s office. That’s when the doctors get a better chance of making a correct diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.

Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes

If the diagnosis is confirmed, your body is surely unable to produce insulin on its own. And hence, you require artificially-prepared insulin to aid your body for correct usage of sugar in the blood. Although, doctors are still working on the proper cure for diabetes, a combination of insulin, medications, and lifestyle changes has been proved very handy to control the blood sugar level and a lot of major symptoms of type 1 diabetes.


Doctors advise for the daily compulsory intake of insulin to diabetes type 1 patients. Both insulin injection and pump are advised depending on the physical condition and age of the patient.

The insulin pump has been used commonly in recent years. It is easier to use, and one can inject it through the port of skin. It is much better than the insulin injection and can also be helpful to calculate the blood sugar levels.

Your doctor can only decide the amount of insulin your body needs every day. Regular study of the blood-sugar level is very helpful to determine the amount of required insulin for diabetes type 1 patient.

There are different varieties of insulin, and your doctor may even have you try multiple varieties to check out which one is more suitable for you.

Some Common Medications

  • Metformin

Metformin is one of the most common diabetes medicines used orally. It was a go-to option for diabetes type 2 patients for many years but has recently been used for type 1 diabetes as well. However, some people may develop an unexpected resistance of insulin, which means, insulin is not effective to reduce blood-sugar levels anymore.

Metformin is effective in reducing blood sugar levels by reducing the production of sugar in the liver. Your doctor may also advise you to take both, insulin as well as metformin for better results.

  • Vaccines

It might sound very surprising, but tuberculosis vaccine has shown some promise to effectively treat type 1 diabetes. However, the study was performed on a very small scale and requires more observation. And that’s why, it is not marketed as a type 1 diabetes treatment, and is undergoing further testing.

  • Diet and Exercises

Proper diet and exercises with regular intake of insulin and prescribed medication can be very effective to keep blood sugar level in check. You can meet a certified diabetes educator cum dietitian to ask for a healthy and effective diet for diabetes type 1.

Several exercises are also effective to reduce the levels of sugar in the blood. A patient with type 1 diabetes should involve in at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercises every week. Cycling, walking, dancing, playing team sports, jogging etc. are some of the most suitable and result-oriented exercises.

However, you should ask your doctor or a diabetes expert if you can perform on or more of these exercises. Follow the proper instructions, along with precautions to get better results.

NOTE: Don’t take insulin, metformin or any other medication until and unless a licensed medical practitioner prescribes you. Sometimes, you may develop symptoms of diabetes type 1 even if you don’t have it!

Final Words

Diabetes type 1 is not very common, as it affects only 5% of all diabetics. And, it can be controlled easily if you are willing to be supportive of your doctor. Yes, there is still no full-proved cure, but a combination of insulin, medications, and lifestyle changes can help you lead a very healthy and active life. Hopefully, we have helped you with a lot of important facts related to diabetes type 1 and busted all the myths related to it.

DISCLAIMER: This writing piece is only for information purposes, not for self-diagnosis or self-treatment of diabetes type 1. We strongly recommend our readers to get in touch with a medical professional before concluding anything.