Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease that occurs when a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, the hormone that controls blood-sugar levels. T1D develops when the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells are mistakenly destroyed by the body’s immune system. The cause of this attack is still being researched, however scientists believe the cause may have genetic and environmental components.
There is nothing anyone can do to prevent T1D. Presently, there is no known cure.
Who T1D affects
Type 1 diabetes (sometimes known as juvenile diabetes) affects children and adults, though people can be diagnosed at any age. With a typically quick onset, T1D must be managed with the use of insulin—either via injection or insulin pump. Soon, people who are insulin dependent may also be able to use artificial pancreas systems to automatically administer their insulin.
How T1D is managed
Type 1 diabetes is a 24/7 disease that requires constant management. People with T1D continuously and carefully balance insulin intake with eating, exercise and other activities. They also measure blood-sugar levels through finger pricks, ideally at least six times a day, or by wearing a continuous glucose monitor.
Even with a strict regimen, people with T1D may still experience dangerously high or low blood-glucose levels that can, in extreme cases, be life threatening. Every person with T1D becomes actively involved in managing his or her disease.
Insulin is not a cure
While insulin therapy keeps people with T1D alive and can help keep blood-glucose levels within recommended range, it is not a cure, nor does it prevent the possibility of T1D’s serious effects.
The outlook for treatments and a cure
Although T1D is a serious and challenging disease, long-term management options continue to evolve, allowing those with T1D to have full and active lives. JDRF is driving research to lessen the impact of T1D on people’s lives until a cure is achieved.
- Some 1.25 million Americans are living with T1D, including about 200,000 youth (less than 20 years old) and more than 1 million adults (20 years old and older).1,2,5
- 40,000 people are diagnosed each year in the U.S.1, 2
- 5 million people in the U.S. are expected to have T1D by 2050, including nearly 600,000 youth.2,3
- Between 2001 and 2009, there was a 21 percent increase in the prevalence of T1D in people under age 20.3
- In the U.S., there are $14 billion in T1D-associated healthcare expenditures and lost income annually.
- Less than one-third of people with T1D in the U.S. are consistently achieving target blood-glucose control levels.6
Warning signs of T1D often appear suddenly and may include:
- Drowsiness or lethargy
- Extreme thirst
- Frequent urination
- Fruity odor on the breath
- Increased appetite
- Heavy or labored breathing
- Sudden weight loss
- Sudden vision changes
- Sugar in the urine
- Stupor or unconsciousness
What it’s like to have T1D
It can be difficult and upsetting. It can be life threatening, and it never goes away. T1D is affected by every bite you eat and every jog you go on. Despite this, people with T1D serve as an inspiration by facing the disease’s challenges with courage and perseverance, and they don’t let it stand in the way of achieving their goals.