What is diabetes mellitus type 1?


Know the basics

What is diabetes mellitus type 1?

Diabetes mellitus or in brief, diabetes is a group of metabolic disorders  which share the common feature of hyperglycemia (high level of  glucose in the blood).. Type 1 diabetes or insulin-depedent diabetes is a lifelong (chronic) disease which is distinct from other types of diabetes by features like insulin deficiency and tendency to develop ketosis.. Insulin is vital as it regulates the concentration of sugar (glucose) in our blood. People with diabetes have too much sugar in the blood, and not enough sugar getting into body cells, which leads to many severe complications in your heart, eyes, kidney, nervous system, gum and teeth. Type 1 diabetes is also commonly referred as juvenile-onset diabetes because its peak incidence is in children and adolescents.

How common is diabetes mellitus type 1?

Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2 diabetes and occurs more often in men than women, especially someone has pancreas problem or family have history of type 1 diabetes. It is often found in childhood and adolescents, highly at the age of 4 to 7 years, and 10 to 14 years. Its incidence decreased in adulthood, after the age of 14.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of diabetes mellitus type 1?

Type 1 diabetes signs and symptoms can come on quickly and may include:

  • Blurred vision;
  • Frequent urination;
  • Increased thirst and extreme hunger;
  • Frequent infection;
  • Feeling tired all the time;
  • Slow-healing wound;
  • Feeling numbness or tingling in your feet;
  • Unintentional weight loss;

There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes diabetes mellitus type 1?

Type 1 diabetes is caused by the  autoimmune destruction of pancreatic beta cells which results in pancreas not producing enough insulin. In other terms, there is not enough insulin to promote the absorption of glucose from blood into cells to help reserve your energy which will lead to high glucose level in blood causing hyperglycemia.

Other rarer causes are certain diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, which affects the pancreas, and surgical removal or severe inflammation (swelling, irritation) of the pancreas.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for diabetes mellitus type 1?

Some possible risk factors for type 1 diabetes include:

  • Family history: Anyone with first-degree relatives (parents or siblings) diagnosed with type 1 diabetes has a slightly increased risk of developing the condition.
  • Genetics: The presence of certain genes indicates an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
  • Geography: The incidence of type 1 diabetes varies differently. In general, the risk is higher in Northern Europeans than Southern Europeans. Climate is thought to be involved in this, but the fact that Sardinia in the Mediterranean also presents a high risk goes against this theory. People living in Finland and Sardinia have the highest incidence of type 1 diabetes — about two to three times higher than rates in the United States and 400 times the incidence among people living in Venezuela. In recent years, there’s an increase in prevalence of type 1 diabetes in the US and Europe.
  • Age: Although type 1 diabetes can appear at any age, it happens to have two noticeable peaks. The first peak occurs in children between 4 and 7 years old, and the second is in adolescents between 10 and 14 years old.

Many other possible risk factors for type 1 diabetes have been investigated, though none have been proved. Some other possible risk factors include:

  • Exposure to certain viruses, such as the Epstein-Barr virus, Coxsackie virus, mumps virus and cytomegalovirus;
  • Early exposure to cow’s milk;
  • Low vitamin D levels;
  • Drinking water that contains nitrates;
  • Early (before 4 months) or late (after 7 months) introduction of cereal and gluten into a baby’s diet;
  • Having a mother who had preeclampsia during pregnancy;
  • Being born with jaundice.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is diabetes mellitus type 1 diagnosed?

You are diagnosed with diabetes if you meet the following criteria:

  • Fasting plasma glucose ≥ 7.0 mmol/L (≥ 126 mg/dL)
  • Symptoms of diabetes plus random (non-fasting) blood glucose level ≥ 11.1 mmol/L (≥ 200 mg/dL);
  • 2-hour plasma glucose ≥ 11.1 mmol/L (≥ 200 mg/dL) during an oral glucose tolerance test;
  • Hemoglobin A1c >6.5% (HbA1c test);

If you were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you should meet your doctor months, so you can:

  • Get instructed for how to check the skin and bones on your feet and legs as well as to check if your feet are getting numb (diabetic nerve disease). It is recommended that you inspect your feet everyday;
  • Have your blood pressure checked;
  • Check the back of your eyes by a tool using special light;
  • Have a HbA1C test done (every 6 months if your diabetes is well controlled)

These tests and exams will help you and your doctor monitor your diabetes and prevent complications caused by diabetes. Besides, you should take the following exams once a year:

  • Have your cholesterol and triglyceride levels checked;
  • Get kidney function tests once a year to make sure they are working well (Glomerular filtration rate – eGFR, blood urea nitrogen – BUN, microalbuminuria and serum creatinine);
  • See the dentist every 6 months for a thorough dental cleaning and exam. Make sure your dentist and hygienist know the presence of your diabetes.

How is diabetes mellitus type 1 treated?

Because type 1 diabetes can start quickly and the symptoms can be severe, people who have just been diagnosed may need to stay in the hospital. If you have just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you may need to have a checkup each week until you have good control over your blood sugar.

Treatments for type 1 diabetes include:


Currently there is no cure for type 1 diabetes, so insulin is the best way to control your blood sugar. You can inject insulin at home, usually 2-3 times a day. Ask your physicians for instruction on how to adjust the dose of insulin in order to properly monitor your blood sugar level. Overdose of insulin will lead to hypoglycemia which is quite dangerous.

Insulin comes in several types (rapid-acting, long-acting, mixed). Doctors will prescribe the most suitable form for you depending on your own case.

Healthy diet:

Health diet will help monitor your glucose levels . It is crucial that you persistently control your daily intake of sugar and starch at a certain level. Dietitians can assist you in arranging this diet.


You should exercise often as they can help control blood sugar levels. In addition, you also need to take care of your foot and check your eyes regularly to prevent future complications.

Other medications

Pramlintide (Symlin) is an injectable amylin analogue drug recently approved by FDA for both type 1 and 2 diabetics. It works by slowing down the movement of food from stomach to intestine which reseults in a curb the sharp increase in blood sugar that occurs after meals.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage diabetes mellitus type 1?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with type 1 diabetes:

  • Follow your special diet and have your meals at the same time every day.
  • Get enough exercise and sleep.
  • Frequently check your blood sugar level. You may be asked to check from 4 to 8 times a day. Call your doctor if you have fever, nausea, or vomiting and can’t keep down solids or liquids.
  • In case of high fluctuation of blood sugar level, call your doctor immediately.
  • Go to the hospital right away if you have a seizure, can’t wake up, or lose consciousness.
  • Check for abnormal signs of your feet everyday.
  • Ensure long-time compliance with your doctor’s guides.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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