In someone without diabetes, insulin is made by special cells in the pancreas called beta cells to help the body use sugar as fuel. The beta cells in the pancreas constantly sense how much sugar is in the bloodstream. When blood sugar rises, the beta cells 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 invading cells or viruses. This happens without symptoms or pain and is known as an autoimmune response. As a result, the pancreas may make little or no insulin, and insulin can’t move sugar out of the blood into the body’s cells, so the cells in the body can’t get the fuel they need. The sugar builds up in the blood instead of being used as fuel. This can be harmful to the body in many ways and leads to the symptoms of diabetes. This usually happens gradually in people with type 2 diabetes, but with type 1 diabetes, symptoms tend to appear very quickly and immediate medical attention is often needed.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes may include
- Increased thirst and hunger
- Frequent urination
- Weight loss
- Blurry vision
- Feeling very tired
Since there’s little to no insulin in the body, it has to be replaced. So people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day in order to control their blood sugar. The amount of insulin taken must be balanced with food and physical activity. In fact, healthy eating, physical activity, medicine, and tracking progress are the 4 cornerstones of good diabetes care.