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Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis and Treatment

writtenByWritten by: Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse
Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa is a MSN prepared Registered Nurse with 10 years of critical care experience in healthcare. When not practicing clinical nursing, she enjoys academic writing and is passionate about helping those affected by medical aliments live healthy lives.

Read more posts by this author.
reviewBy Reviewed by: Dr. Katalin Karolyi
Reviewer

Dr. Katalin Karolyi

Katalin Karolyi, M.D. earned her medical degree at the University of Debrecen. After completing her residency program in pathology at the Kenezy Hospital, she obtained a postdoctoral position at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Orlando, Florida.

March 1, 2021 Read Time - 6 minutes

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is characterized by the destruction of pancreatic beta cells responsible for producing insulin.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood and it is regulating cells to use glucose from the blood. The lack of insulin causes the symptoms of type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes affects approximately 5% of adults with the disease.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetic components, immunologic, and sometimes environmental (viral) factors. But the mostly accepted theory is that genetic components are the common underlying factor.

The genes associated with type 1 diabetes include: HLA-DQA1, HLA-DQB1, and HLA-DRB1 genes.

People do not inherit type 1 diabetes, but rather it is a genetic predisposition or tendency.

How Does Type 1 Diabetes Affect the Body?

Due to the extensive damage to the beta cells in the pancreas, people with type 1 diabetes do not make and as a consequence use any insulin. This causes a serious problem because the body is deprived of nutrients and energy.

If your body does not get glucose into its’ cells, then the body does not get the energy it needs to perform properly. This ultimately causes cellular and organ damage over time.

Since cells are unable to access glucose, they then rely on burning another form of energy, which results in waste production and can further damage organs. The body burns the next readily available substance, fat. The body burns fat instead of glucose resulting in fuel called, ketones. The buildup of waste production (ketones) is called ketoacidosis and can be toxic to the body.

Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed in childhood between the ages of 4 and 14, and almost always before age 40.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 18,200 people are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year.

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Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes affects approximately 5% of adults with the disease, while type 2 affects approximately 95% of adults with the disease. Type 1 diabetes is characterized by the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells. These insulin-producing beta cells are located in the pancreas. The lack of insulin causes the symptoms of type 1 diabetes. 

Type 2 diabetes is characterized by the insulin resistance and impaired insulin secretion. Insulin resistance refers to the body’s decreased sensitivity to insulin. Insulin is less effective with type 2 diabetes and the lack of insulin effect accounts for type 2 diabetic symptoms.

Type 2 diabetes occurs more commonly among people older than 30 years old and who are obese.

Type 2 diabetes is also seen in children, adolescents, and young adults with a correlating factor of obesity.


Read: What’s the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?


What Causes Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is caused by damage to the beta cells in the pancreas making them ineffective. Normally, beta cells in the pancreas release a hormone called insulin that controls glucose levels in our bodies.

Type 1 diabetes is generally considered an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks insulin-producing beta cells. The reason for this attack is unknown. Damage to these cells leads to the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is not considered hereditary. However, a predisposition to develop type 1 diabetes is passed through generations in families, but the inheritance pattern is still unknown.

How is Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosed

Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed with blood and urine tests. Several tests are conducted in order to determine type 1 diabetes. These tests include:

  • Random blood sugar test
  • Glycated hemoglobin A1C test (HgA1C)
  • Fasting blood sugar test
  • Antibody test
  • Urine ketone test

Random blood sugar tests measure the amount of glucose in the blood. Levels above 200 mg/dL suggests diabetes.

HgA1C tests measure the average blood sugar level over the last 3 months. An A1C level of 6.5% or higher on two separate tests indicates diabetes.

A fasting blood sugar test measures glucose levels in the blood after fasting overnight. A level above 126 mg/dL suggests diabetes. 

Your doctor may also take a urine sample to diagnose type 1 diabetes. The test is looking for fat cell waste products called ketones. Ketones present in the urine also suggest type 1 diabetes.

In order to confirm the diagnosis of type 1, the healthcare provider can check antibodies that attack insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas. The test shows that 90% of people with type 1 diabetes are found to have these antibodies.

Type 1 Diabetes Treatment

Early treatment of type 1 diabetes is the most effective treatment. You will have to regularly visit the doctor when you have type 1 diabetes.

A HgA1C (sometimes called A1C) blood test is used to determine how well treatment is working. Your goal A1C is often dependent on your age and other factors. The American Diabetes Association recommends that A1C levels remain at 7% or below.

Medication is prescribed for type 1 diabetes. Treatment for Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong commitment to take medications and visit your healthcare team.

Type 1 diabetics do not make insulin so insulin must be injected into their body several times a day in order to function properly. 

Injectable insulin is available in many forms and is prescribed often. Insulin injectables are available in a syringe form, pen injectable form, jet injector, insulin port, as well as an insulin pump.

Advancements in type 1 diabetes management have come a long way from past treatment options. Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes is not fatal, in fact, you can live a long and healthy life with type 1 diabetes. All it takes is a healthcare team, dedication, and commitment to a treatment plan.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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Online Diabetes Management

You can conveniently meet with a board certified online doctor at PlushCare to manage type 1 diabetes.

If you are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, talk with a PlushCare provider about treatment options. The doctor will work with you to determine the best medication for you to take and will check on you to ensure the care plan is working.

You can book an appointment here, or download the free PlushCare mobile app. The average appointment lasts just 15 minutes and 97% of conditions are successfully treated on the first visit.


Read More About Diabetes

Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

American Diabetes Association. 2020. Type 1 diabetes. Retrieved from https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/type-1

American Diabetes Association. 2020. Type 2 diabetes. Retrieved from https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/type-2

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Diabetes. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/index.html

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). National diabetes statistics report, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/data/statistics-report

 

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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