Diabetes, in general, is the name given to disorders in which the body has trouble regulating its blood
glucose, or blood sugar, levels. There are two major types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.
Type 2 diabetes comprises 90% of people with diabetes around the world, and is largely the result of
excess body weight and physical inactivity. Formerly called non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset
diabetes, type 2 diabetes results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin, the hormone that allows
glucose to enter the cells of the body to provide fuel.
Type 1 diabetes, on the other hand, is the result of the body’s failure to produce insulin. This is the
result of an autoimmune process in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin
producing cells of the pancreas, an organ about the size of a hand that is located behind the lower
part of the stomach. When glucose cannot enter the cells, it builds up in the blood and can result in
serious damage to all the organ systems of the body by causing the body’s cells to starve to death. For
this reason, people with type 1 diabetes (also called juvenile diabetes) must take insulin in order to
This means undergoing multiple injections daily, or having insulin delivered through an insulin pump,
and testing their blood sugar by pricking their fingers for blood six or more times a day. People with
diabetes must also carefully balance their food intake and their exercise to regulate their blood sugar
levels, in an attempt to avoid hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemic (high blood sugar)
reactions, which can be life threatening.
While insulin injections allow a person with type 1 diabetes to stay alive, they do not cure diabetes,
nor do they necessarily prevent the possibility of the disease’s devastating effects, which may
include: kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, amputations, heart attack, stroke, and pregnancy
Despite paying rigorous attention to maintaining a meal plan and exercise regimen and always injecting
the proper amount of insulin, people with type 1 diabetes face many other factors that can adversely
affect efforts to tightly control blood sugar levels. These factors include stress, hormonal changes,
periods of growth, physical activity, medications, illness/infection and fatigue.
Warning Signs of Type 1 Diabetes
• Extreme thirst
• Frequent urination
• Drowsiness or lethargy
• Sugar in urine
• Sudden vision changes
• Increased appetite
• Sudden weight loss
• Fruity, sweet, or wine-like odor on breath
• Heavy, labored breathing
• Stupor or unconsciousness.
Although type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, it is generally diagnosed in children, teenagers, or
young adults. Scientists do not yet know exactly what causes type 1 diabetes, but they believe that
autoimmune, genetic and environmental factors are involved.
There are 25.8 million people in the United States who have diabetes in general. Of those, only 3
million (8.5%) have type 1 diabetes. Each year, more than 15,000 children and 15,000 adults
(approximately 80 people per day) are diagnosed with diabetes in the U.S. About 1 in every 400
children and adolescents have type 1 diabetes.
Ask people who have type 1 diabetes, and they will tell you…it’s difficult, it’s upsetting, it’s life-
threatening and it never goes away.
- Summarized from content on JDRF and AMA websites.
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