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Understanding Type 1 Diabetes and What to Look Out For

Understanding Type 1 Diabetes and What to Look Out For

An estimated 1.45 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, once commonly known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. It is a chronic, incurable condition that prevents the pancreas from making insulin the body needs to regulate blood sugar levels.

While Type 1 diabetes can develop at any time, it’s most often diagnosed between the ages of 4-7 years old and 10-14 years old. It’s considered more serious than type 2 diabetes because of how early it develops. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to suffer from complications including damage to the feet, eyes, kidneys, nerve endings, and heart.

Because it’s usually diagnosed at a younger age, parents are often the first to notice that something is off, and that can include a varied list of symptoms:

  • Excessive thirst and/or hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased irritability and mood swings
  • Feeling tired and weak
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blurry vision

Symptoms can also be affected by genetics or exposure to certain viruses. For years, researchers have worked to pinpoint what causes the onset of type 1 diabetes, particularly in those who have no genetic predisposition to the disease. Doctors now know that there are several viruses that can influence the onset of autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes including Epstein-Barr, enteroviruses and COVID-19.

A simple blood test to check blood sugar levels is all that is needed to diagnose type 1 diabetes in kids, but symptoms are often overlooked. Similarly, diagnosing adults with type 1 diabetes can be tricky and often misdiagnosed. Although the onset of type 1 diabetes can happen at any age, it is often misdiagnosed as type 2 diabetes.

Treatment for type 1 diabetes involves managing blood sugar levels in the body with medication, change in diet and lifestyle. An insulin pump is often worn to help monitor blood sugar levels and notify you when an insulin shot is needed. Insulin isn’t available in pill form and must be administered into the bloodstream by a shot. If taken by mouth, the acids in the stomach would destroy or break down the insulin before it could be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Regular physical activity, getting adequate sleep and making healthy food choices are important to managing blood sugar levels and type 1 diabetes. Choosing meals full of non-processed healthy fats, proteins and nutrient dense carbohydrates are key to keeping insulin in check.

Talk your doctor about any symptoms or if you have a family history of diabetes. Managing type 1 diabetes is a life-changing event that will require a team effort. Your primary care doctor and an endocrinologist who specializes in the treatment of diabetes will work together to determine a plan to help you or your loved on live a happy and healthy life.