There are two major forms of diabetes. One is type-1 while the other is type-2. Less than 10 percent of diabetics are type-1. The rest are type-2 diabetics. Type-2 diabetes is often called “adult onset diabetes” as they most often occur in middle age.
Type-1 diabetes is often called “juvenile onset diabetes” as the symptoms often appear in childhood or infancy. It is also called insulin-dependent diabetes as the insulin dependent person must take daily insulin injections to stay alive. Insulin was only discovered in 1921. Prior to this people with type-1 diabetes only live a few years after diagnosis.
Insulin is produced in the pancreas by beta cells located in a region known as the Isles of Langerhans, named after the German pathologist Paul Langerhans who first wrote about them in 1869.
The food we take is converted into glucose. The glucose in the blood must then enter the individual body cells for energy production. Insulin helps get glucose into the body cells. Without insulin the glucose cannot get into the cells and blood sugar rises to a dangerously high level.
In type-1 diabetes the beta cells in these regions are damaged or destroyed and they cannot produce adequate insulin. Damage to these beta cells can be caused by a number of factors.
One of the factors is viral disease. Diseases like flu, mumps, chickenpox and measles are associated with type-1 diabetes. There are reports of young children developing type-1 diabetes after cases of the above diseases.
Another factor is environmental chemical compounds such as pesticides. They have been reported as a factor that causes type-1 diabetes. Yet another factor is extreme stress. There have been reports of some developing type-1 diabetes after an extremely stressful event some six to eight months before.
In over 32 percent of the cases, the culprit is the body’s immune system. The body’s immune system produces anti-bodies to counter invading virus and bacteria. For some unknown reason these anti-bodies treat the beta cells as invaders and destroy them.
Several studies were done on identical twins in which one of the pair has developed type-1 diabetes. The chance of the other pair developing the disease is between 30 and 50 percent.
The result shows that while it is not absolutely inherited, there is some genetic disposition that increases a person’s risk.
To confuse the results further, people with type-1 diabetes can have no family history of any kind of diabetes.
Classic symptoms of type-1 diabetes are frequent urination, excessive thirst and weight loss (without trying). The high glucose level in the blood stimulates the kidney to excrete glucose laden urine to try to get it to go down. The frequent urination causes the individual to become very thirsty and drink large amount of water to replace those that are lost.
Weight loss occurs because the cells are staved as they cannot make use of the food that you take. If this situation is allowed to progress, the body’s metabolism can go out of whack and there is a real danger that the individual can go into a diabetic coma and die.
At the present time, there is not a cure for type I diabetes but there is a treatment.
Type-1 diabetics should check their blood glucose level a few times a day and especially before each meal. Then measure amount of insulin is delivered by injection to replace what the body is failing to produce.
This should be carefully monitored as it is possible for a person to get too much insulin. The person can go into a condition called insulin shock or hypoglycemia. Symptoms include dizziness, headache, and in severe cases loss of consciousness.
Insulin shock or hypoglycemia is treated by giving the individual something with high glycemic index that puts quickly puts glucose back into the blood.
Those with type-1 diabetes nearly always need insulin injections. However the amount of insulin can be reduced by proper diet, exercise and other lifestyle modifications.