Type one or insulin-dependent diabetes is a serious chronic condition in which the pancreas gland does not produce insulin. It is often called juvenile or early-onset diabetes because it usually affects children and younger adults, though it can develop at any age.
Although only 5% of people diagnosed with diabetes have type 1, it is more severe than other types. In it, the body’s immune system attacks part of the pancreas, mistakenly seeing the insulin-producing cells as foreign. The cause of this attack, also known as autoimmune disease, is not known and presently there is no cure for it. Treatment focuses on daily, life-long insulin therapy, which helps to manage the condition and live a full and productive life.
If left untreated, the condition can be life-threatening because the body starts burning its own fats as a substitute which releases chemicals in the blood. These dangerous chemicals will accumulate in the blood, causing ketoacidosis.
Over time, excessive blood sugar levels can affect vital organs in the body, resulting in disabling complications, like:
- Cardiovascular disease – excess sugar affects small blood vessels, dramatically enhancing the chances of cardiovascular problems, making the patient more prone to hypertension, stroke, atherosclerosis and heart disease.
- Nerve damage or diabetic neuropathy – high sugar can damage capillaries that nourish nerves, particularly in the legs. This causes tingling, numbness, burning or pain in the limbs, which eventually leads to loss of all sense of feeling in them. In fact, nerve damage can occur in every organ system, including gastrointestinal tract and genital organs, resulting in dyspeptic disorders and sexual dysfunction.
- Nephropathy – high sugar can damage tiny blood vessels in kidneys, resulting in kidney failure or irreversible kidney disease that requires dialysis.
- Retinopathy – excess sugar can damage blood vessels of the retina, resulting in blindness and raising the risk of other eye problems, such as cataracts or glaucoma.
There is no prevention for this type of diabetes except preventing further destruction of pancreas cells. Therefore, patients must look after their health very carefully making treating the condition easier. Proper treatment and life choices can significantly reduce the negative impact of diabetes complications.