Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease in which insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas are mistakenly destroyed by the body’s immune system. T1D seems to have a genetic component and can be diagnosed early in life but also in adulthood. Its causes are not fully known, and there is currently no cure. People with T1D are dependent on injected or pumped insulin to survive.
Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is often diagnosed later in life and can be due to genetic predisposition or behavior. T2D is a metabolic disorder in which a person’s body still produces insulin but is unable to use it effectively. It can be managed with diet and exercise or medication. More serious cases may require insulin therapy.
Though they share the name diabetes, the two diseases are quite different.
Signs of T1D
T1D is identified in children and adults as they show signs of the following symptoms:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Dry mouth
- Itchy or dry skin
- Increased appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Yeast infections
What happens in the body of a person with T1D?
People are typically diagnosed with T1D after showing symptoms (e.g., nausea, vomiting, extreme thirst, exhaustion and/or malaise). As the body becomes incapable of creating insulin, which allows the body to use the sugar found in food, called glucose, as energy, people with T1D must work closely with their endocrinologists to determine the insulin doses and lifestyle changes needed to manage their blood-sugar levels.
If not treated properly, people with T1D are vulnerable to health issues ranging from minor to severe. Most people with T1D spend the majority of their time with blood-glucose levels outside the recommended healthy range, which can lead to potentially deadly episodes of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Chronic high blood sugar often causes devastating health complications later in life, including blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and nerve damage that can lead to amputations.