- Glucose is a type of sugar that comes from the food we eat, and which circulates in the blood. A hormone called insulin helps glucose get into the body's cells, where the glucose is used for fuel.
- People with type 1 diabetes, however, slowly stop producing insulin. As this occurs, glucose is no longer pushed from the blood into the cells. The body can't get the fuel it needs. And the level of glucose in the blood becomes too high.
- Type 1 diabetes generally develops unnoticed for years, then symptoms appear abruptly. It most often strikes young people between the ages of 5 and 7. Symptoms include frequent urination, excessive thirst, hunger, and weight loss. The symptoms are usually so dramatic that once they appear, the diabetes is usually diagnosed within a few weeks.
- Anyone with these symptoms should have a blood glucose test as well as a urine test. If left undiagnosed and untreated, type 1 diabetes would lead to labored breathing, coma, and even death. However, diabetes can be successfully treated and with proper management people with diabetes can live full, healthy lives.
- To manage diabetes, insulin must be used daily.
- Other essential components of diabetes management include careful meal planning, blood glucose monitoring, and exercise.
- Medical emergencies can occur when blood glucose gets too high. This can lead to the buildup of a poisonous acid called ketones (ketoacidosis). Another emergency is when blood glucose gets too low (severe hypoglycemia). People with diabetes should wear or carry alert information. They, and their friends and family, should know the symptoms of these emergencies and what to do if they occur.
- People with diabetes are at greater risk of long-term complications. These include heart disease, stroke, foot problems, eye problems, and kidney disease. People with diabetes should keep their blood glucose under control. They also need to keep their blood pressure and cholesterol under control.
- People with diabetes should get regular checkups. They should get their hemoglobin A1c tested every 6 months and generally keep it below 7%.
Nancy J. Rennert, MD, FACE, FACP, Chief of Endocrinology & Diabetes, Norwalk Hospital, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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