The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin that helps the cells of the liver, muscles etc. to utilise the glucose in the blood and store it as glycogen. When very little or no insulin is produced, it causes blood sugar levels to rise abnormally, and this condition is identified as type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is caused when the immune system destroys insulin secreting cells. It generally affects children, adolescents, and young adults. People with a family history of type 1 diabetes are at a greater risk, however, children with no family history can also be affected.
The symptoms of type 1 diabetes might not always be obvious, and can be mistaken for viral or stomach infection. The common symptoms of are:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Excess hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Skin infections
It is very important to recognise the symptoms of the disease. Type 1 diabetes develops quickly and can prove fatal if left untreated. If the initial symptoms are not addressed, the disease takes a severe form and causes nausea, vomiting, difficulty in breathing, stomach pain and even loss of consciousness. This condition is called diabetic ketoacidosis.
Type 1 diabetics can be diagnosed examining urine samples for the presence of ketone. Checking blood glucose level is an effective method to diagnose diabetes. Usually the the blood samples are taken twice and checked to determine the blood glucose levels during fasting and non fasting conditions.
- Fasting blood glucose level – The test results are considered positive if the sugar level is higher than 126mg/dL
- Non fasting blood glucose level – The test results are considered positive if the sugar level is higher than 200mg/dL
Oral glucose tolerance tests are also done to determine diabetes. If the glucose levels are found to be higher than 200 mg/dL, two hours after glucose intake, the patient is declared as diabetic.
In addition to the above mentioned tests, haemoglobin A1c test is the best way to check if your diabetes is under control. This test checks the amount of glucose bound to haemoglobin. It is helpful in tracking the patient’s average blood sugar control rate over a period of 2 to 3 months. If the HA1c test results for a diabetic are 6.5% or less, then the situation is under control.
Type 1 diabetes cannot be treated with drugs and diet alone. This type of diabetes needs to be controlled by injecting insulin for the proper functioning of cells. There are different types of insulin preparations administered according to needs of individual patients. The short-acting insulin is taken before a meal to increase the insulin level and help the cells utilize the glucose in blood. The longer- acting insulin is administered twice a day. Some patients are also prescribed a combination of both the types for effective results.
It is also very important to eat right and administer only the required amount of insulin. Less intake of food and more than required insulin levels can cause hypoglycaemia.
Pancreas transplant is done in very rare cases, and is the only way to completely cure type 1 diabetes. This treatment is not so popular because the body may reject the transplanted organ or require a lifelong treatment with immuno-suppressant drugs.
A team of scientists are developing a new treatment named DiaPep277, a unique peptide that is touted as a boon for type 1 diabetes patients. Till date there is no such therapy or treatment that aims at preventing the destruction of insulin secreting beta cells. Currently in phase III clinical trails, DiaPep277 is said to be a revolutionary treatment that will do away with the injections and pump, and will prevent the immune system from attacking the insulin producing cells in the pancreas.