Diabetes 101

Diabetes is the name given to disorders in which the body has trouble regulating its blood-glucose, or blood-sugar, levels.

Type 1 Diabetes (T1D)

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. It occurs in children and adults. 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)

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. Type 2 diabetes management includes 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

Before a type 1 diabetes diagnosis, both children and adults often have the following symptoms:

What happens in the body of a person with T1D?

Insulin allows the body to convert sugar (glucose) found in food to energy. As the body becomes incapable of creating insulin, T1D symptoms start to appear (e.g., nausea, vomiting, extreme thirst, exhaustion, and/or frequent urination). People are typically diagnosed with T1D after showing these symptoms. 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. If people with T1D spend the majority of their time with blood-glucose levels outside the recommended healthy range, it 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.

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