Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms & Treatment Options | Cornerstones4Care®

Type 1 Diabetes 101

Since half of all people with type 1 diabetes are diagnosed during childhood or their early teens, type 1 diabetes used to be referred to as juvenile diabetes. But, in reality, type 1 diabetes can happen at any age. Type 1 diabetes is much rarer than type 2 diabetes in general, making up only 5% of all cases of diabetes. 

Insulin and type 1 diabetes 

In someone without diabetes, insulin, a naturally occurring hormone in the body, is made by special cells in the pancreas called beta cells to help the body use sugar as fuel.  The body constantly checks how much sugar is in the bloodstream. When blood sugar rises, the body tells the pancreas to release more insulin. 

In type 1 diabetes, the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas as if they were foreign cells or viruses. This usually happens without symptoms or pain and is known as an autoimmune response. As a result, too many of the beta cells are destroyed and the pancreas makes little or no insulin. And when that happens, there’s not enough insulin for sugar to get into the cells, so it builds up in the blood instead of being used as fuel.  

When you have type 1 diabetes, you must take insulin, by injection or pump, to replace the natural insulin the pancreas no longer produces. 

Type 1 diabetes symptoms

The signs and symptom of diabetes usually appear gradually in people with type 2 diabetes , but with type 1 diabetes symptoms tend to make themselves known very quickly and can often be severe enough to require hospitalization.   

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes may include 

  • Increased thirst and hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Blurry vision
  • Feeling very tired

What causes type 1 diabetes?

It is not known exactly what causes the body to attack its own beta cells. It is believed that family history (genetics) may be involved, combined with unknown factors that trigger autoimmune disease. There is a lot of research being done to try and determine the risk factors for type 1 diabetes and the potential causes, but at this point in time there is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes. So any guilt or responsibility you may feel for your own type 1 diabetes or that of a loved one is completely misplaced—there was nothing that you could have done to prevent it. But the good news is, there are many things you can do to manage it. 

Type 1 diabetes treatment 

Treatment for type 1 diabetes includes taking insulin every day. Since there’s little to no insulin in the body, it has to be replaced.  

To replace the insulin normally secreted by the beta cells at times when you are not eating, a background insulin, or “basal” dose of insulin (also known as long-acting insulin), is needed throughout the day and night. This insulin allows the cells to process sugar (glucose) to give the body the energy it needs to keep functioning.     

Short bursts of insulin, or “bolus” doses of insulin (sometimes referred to as rapid-acting or mealtime insulin), are needed by the body at mealtimes to cover the spikes in blood sugar that are caused by food.   

Combining both basal and bolus insulin treatment is often called basal-bolus insulin therapy.

In addition to taking insulin, healthy eating and physical activity are also important for people with type 1 diabetes.

Dealing With the Diagnosis

It isn’t easy to hear that you or a loved one has type 1 diabetes, but there are ways to cope with it and move forward. We can help.

Meet the Diabetes Health Coach

One of the many type 1 diabetes support program resources you can access on Cornerstones4Care® is the Diabetes Health Coach. This online program can help people with type 1 diabetes build the healthy habits and skills that are needed to manage diabetes.