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Type 1 diabetes – causes, side effects and treatments at

Friday, July 20, 2018 by

Diabetes mellitus, also known as diabetes, is a chronic disease that affects how the body uses glucose, the main sugar in the blood.

While there are many forms of the condition, Type 1 diabetes refers to that where the pancreas is unable to produce insulin, a hormone that allows cells to convert glucose into energy. If the body cannot make insulin (or is unable to make enough of it), this can cause a build-up of glucose in the bloodstream, which can lead to multiple organ damage, as well as other complications of diabetes, over time.

Type 1 diabetes was previously called juvenile diabetes, as it is usually found in children, teens, and young adults. However, the condition can occur at any age.

Between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, the former is less common, accounting for only five percent of all diagnosed diabetes mellitus cases. However, unlike the latter, which is recognized as a preventable disease, the etiology of Type 1 diabetes is still unclear. Healthcare professionals usually recommend lifestyle changes, glucose regulation, and regular check-ups to manage the condition.

Known risk factors and symptoms of Type 1 diabetes

Cells in the pancreas called beta cells are responsible for insulin production in the body. However, in Type 1 diabetes, these beta cells are attacked by the body’s own immune system. In time, the cells become severely damaged and are unable to produce insulin.

Experts have looked into family history as a potential risk factor for Type 1 diabetes, with certain genes making a person predisposed to the disease. In addition, researchers have identified that certain infections and environmental factors could potentially play a role in the development of Type 1 diabetes, but their exact role is unclear.

Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes, which is commonly diagnosed in children, include the following:

  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Feeling very tired or hungry
  • Slow healing sores
  • Itchy, dry skin
  • Tingling sensation (or even loss of sensation) in the feet
  • Blurry eyesight

Body systems affected by Type 1 diabetes

If the condition is left unchecked, complications of Type 1 diabetes can affect major organs of the body, including the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes, and even the kidneys. Over time, these conditions can be disabling or even fatal. Common complications include the following.

  • Cardiovascular diseases – Type 1 diabetes greatly increases the risk of heart and blood vessel diseases including coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke, atherosclerosis, and hypertension.
  • Neuropathy – Too much glucose in the bloodstream can injure the small blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood to the nerve endings. Patients with neuropathy may experience either a tingling sensation, numbness, or pain that starts from the tips of the extremities which spreads upward. If blood sugar is not properly managed, a person may lose all feeling in the affected limbs.
  • Nephropathy – The kidneys are home to millions of tiny blood vessels that remove waste from the bloodstream. If these are damaged, it can lead to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease.
  • Eye damage – If the blood vessels of the retina are affected, this can result in a condition called diabetic retinopathy, which leads to blindness. Type 1 diabetes increases the risk of serious vision conditions like glaucoma and cataracts.
  • Foot damage – Type 1 diabetes, if it affects nerves or blood circulation in the foot, can increase the risk of foot complications. For instance, cuts and blisters in the area could become serious infections that may require toe, foot or leg amputation.
  • Skin and mouth conditions – People with diabetes are more likely to have skin and mouth infections (i.e., bacterial and fungal), as well as gum disease and dry mouth.
  • Pregnancy complications – If left unmanaged, women with Type 1 diabetes are more likely to suffer from miscarriage, stillbirth, and other birth defects. In addition, this also increases the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis, diabetic eye problems (retinopathy), pregnancy-induced high blood pressure and preeclampsia.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent Type 1 diabetes

An article in lists some food items that can improve beta cell regeneration in the pancreas. These include:

  • Arginine
  • Avocadoes
  • Berberine
  • Chard
  • Cornsilk
  • Curcumin (from turmeric)
  • Genistein (from soy and red clover)
  • Honey
  • Nigella sativa (black seed)
  • Stevia

Treatments, management options for Type 1 diabetes

For the most part, people with Type 1 diabetes should aim to reduce their insulin requirement to a minimum – while performing at optimum health. In particular, the cardiovascular system should be managed properly through the regulation of blood sugar, attention to diet, reduction of stress, and exercise. However, this does not mean that insulin use should be discontinued, and it should never be attempted without sound advice from a healthcare professional.

Here are some recommended management options for Type 1 diabetes.

  • If a person is overweight, he should aim to lose weight as excess body fat can lead to insulin resistance.
  • Eat small meals frequently to manage blood sugar. Large meals, in particular, could overload the body with glucose.
  • Avoid refined starches and sugars and opt for better carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, and beans.
  • Assess dietary choices using glycemic load, which identifies how a specific food item affects blood sugar levels.
  • Try to add more fish, non-starchy vegetables, and moderate amounts of monosaturated oils in your diet.
  • Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic activity in a day.

Where to learn more


Type 1 diabetes is a condition where the pancreas is unable to produce insulin, a hormone that allows cells to convert glucose into energy.

Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age.

Type 1 diabetes accounts for only five percent of all diagnosed diabetes mellitus cases.

The cause of Type 1 diabetes is still unclear.

Type 1 diabetes can affect major organs of the body, including the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes, and even the kidneys.

Type 1 diabetes can be managed using lifestyle changes, glucose regulation, and regular check-ups.

Sources include:


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