Although it is often called juvenile diabetes or childhood diabetes, type 1 diabetes lasts a lifetime. Consequently, among the millions of Americans with type 1 diabetes there are many adults who have lived with the disease since childhood. Additionally, type 1 diabetes can strike an individual in their late teens or all the way into adulthood.
The True Cause of Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. This means that it is caused by an incorrect response of the immune system. The immune system is supposed to fight diseases that invade the body, but in a type 1 diabetic, it reacts as though the insulin producing cells are a disease. Consequently, the immune system destroys any insulin-producing cells, and the type1 diabetic can no longer produce insulin on their own.
The Type 1 Diabetic Always Requires Insulin
Since there is no insulin produced in their body, the type 1 diabetic must take several shots of insulin every day or wear an insulin pump in order to provide their body with this needed hormone. Insulin breaks down the sugar in the body and turns it into energy it can use.
Type 1 Causes Many Lifestyle Changes
Although not caused by lifestyle, type 1 diabetes changes the lifestyle of those it afflicts. It is inevitable that type 1 diabetics will have periods of low blood sugar or high blood sugar. Any carbohydrates they eat, any exercise, stress, illness or hormone changes can affect their blood sugar and consequently the amount of insulin required. Insulin doses are adjusted by the diabetic to avoid high or low blood sugar, because they both cause problems, including the following:
- High Blood Sugar: A lack of insulin means the sugars that come from broken-down carbohydrates are unused by the body, and remain in the bloodstream. This is called high blood sugar. When the blood sugar is high, a person feels lethargic and tired. If blood sugar becomes too high or stays high for an extended time, it can result in ketoacidosis and eventually a coma.
- Low Blood Sugar: Taking too much insulin can cause more immediate problems. If an individual takes too much insulin, they can suffer confusion, pass out, have convulsions, or (worst case) die. The confusion that occurs from low blood sugar can appear strange to others who are not familiar with the problem. It can be anything from slurring speech and slow responses to complete delirium. The simple remedy for this condition is sugar.
Type 1 Diabetes Doesn’t Improve for Adults
When a type 1 diabetic gets older, this lifestyle doesn’t get easier and the body becomes less forgiving. There are always times when blood sugar doesn’t seem to respond as expected and miscalculations are made. As an adult, their responsibilities grow, stresses increase, and complications frequently enter into the equation. High blood pressure, diabetic retinopathy (which can cause blindness), kidney disease, and neuropathy (pain or numbness in the limbs) can all result from diabetes.
Clearing up the Misunderstandings of Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is not caused by lifestyle. It is a very serious disease that needs constant monitoring, because it can cause some very debilitating problems as the diabetic gets older. Most type 1 diabetics are diagnosed as children, but they grow up and still struggle with the same disease when they are adults. You can contribute to the search for a cure for type 1 diabetes by contributing the the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).