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  • Writer's pictureDr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam

What is Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes is a condition that affects how your body uses sugar (glucose) for energy. Normally, your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin that helps glucose enter your cells. But in diabetes, either your pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, or your cells don’t respond well to insulin, or both. This causes high blood sugar levels, which can lead to serious health problems.

There are different types of diabetes, and one of them is called Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus. Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic disease that occurs when your immune system attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas that make insulin. This causes a sudden and severe lack of insulin, and people with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus need to take insulin shots every day to survive.

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus is also known as autoimmune diabetes, because it involves an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake). This reaction can happen at any age, but it usually starts in childhood or young adulthood. It is less common than type 2 diabetes, which usually develops in adulthood and is more related to lifestyle factors such as obesity or family history.

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus symptoms can appear suddenly and may include:

  • Feeling more thirsty than usual.

  • Urinating a lot.

  • Bed-wetting in children who have never wet the bed during the night.

  • Feeling very hungry.

  • Losing weight without trying.

  • Feeling irritable or having other mood changes.

  • Feeling tired and weak.

  • Having blurred vision or trouble seeing.

  • Having frequent infections or slow-healing wounds.

If you have these symptoms, you should see your doctor as soon as possible and get your blood sugar tested. Untreated diabetes can lead to very serious—even fatal—health problems such as:

  • Ketoacidosis: a condition where the body breaks down fat for energy and produces acids called ketones, which can make the blood too acidic and damage the organs.

  • Diabetic coma: a state of unconsciousness caused by very high or very low blood sugar levels.

  • Heart disease: a condition where the blood vessels that supply the heart become narrowed or blocked by fatty deposits, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.

  • Kidney disease: a condition where the kidneys become damaged and lose their ability to filter waste and fluids from the blood, leading to kidney failure or dialysis.

  • Nerve damage: a condition where the nerves that control sensation and movement become damaged by high blood sugar levels, causing pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the feet, legs, hands, or other parts of the body.

  • Eye damage: a condition where the blood vessels that supply the eyes become damaged by high blood sugar levels, causing vision problems such as cataracts, glaucoma, or blindness.

  • Foot problems: a condition where the feet become vulnerable to infections, ulcers, or amputation due to poor blood flow and nerve damage.

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus can be managed successfully by:

  • Following your doctor’s recommendations for living a healthy lifestyle. This may include eating a balanced diet that limits carbohydrates and sugars, exercising regularly, managing stress, and avoiding smoking and alcohol.

  • Taking insulin shots every day as prescribed by your doctor. You may need to take different types of insulin at different times of the day depending on your blood sugar levels and activity. You will also need to monitor your blood sugar levels regularly using a device called a glucometer and adjust your insulin dose accordingly.

  • Getting regular health checkups and tests to monitor your diabetes and prevent complications. You may need to check your blood pressure, cholesterol, kidney function, eye health, foot health, and other aspects of your health regularly. You may also need to get vaccinated against certain diseases such as flu or pneumonia that can be more serious for people with diabetes.

  • Getting diabetes self-management education and support from your health care team and other sources. You can learn more about diabetes and how to cope with it from your doctor, nurse, dietitian, pharmacist, educator, counselor, or support group.

Living with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus can be challenging but rewarding if you take good care of yourself and follow your treatment plan. You can live a long and healthy life with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus if you work closely with your doctor and follow their advice.


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