Causes and Risk Factors
Our body cells require a hormone, known as insulin, to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Insulin is produced by the beta cells of the islets of Langerhans present in the pancreas. When enough insulin is not present in the body, which is the case with type 1 diabetes, the cells fail to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. As a result, glucose or sugar builds up in the blood, and raises the level of blood sugar.
The exact causes of this condition are not known with certainty, but it is believed that the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. This autoimmune response reduces the production of insulin significantly, and as a result, the body fails to utilize glucose efficiently.
The most important risk factors for this condition are, genetics, a family history of diabetes, and the exposure to viruses like, ‘Epstein-Barr virus’, mumps virus, cytomegalovirus, and coxsackievirus. In general, it has been observed that individuals whose parents or other members of the family have juvenile diabetes, are more likely to develop this condition. Apart from these, factors like a low level of vitamin D, being born with a disease like jaundice, and contracting respiratory infections immediately after birth, may raise the risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
Symptoms and Treatment
The most common symptoms of diabetes are, increased thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, increased fatigue, extreme hunger, and blurred vision. As far as the treatment is concerned, the main treatment option is insulin therapy. Insulin injections and insulin pumps are generally used for treating this condition. Several types of insulin are available for the treatment of diabetes. Your physician can recommend a specific type, or a combination of different types of insulin after evaluating your condition.
In addition to insulin, your physician can prescribe some other medications, such as high blood pressure medications, aspirin, and cholesterol-lowering medications to reduce the risks of certain diseases that diabetic patients can develop.
Dietary and lifestyle modifications are also required to manage diabetes and control the level of blood sugar. Diabetic patients should closely monitor their blood glucose levels, and follow a healthy and balanced diet that includes fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They should also exercise regularly for controlling the level of blood sugar.
A few other treatment options, such as pancreas transplantation, islet cell transplantation, and stem cell transplant are being investigated for treating type 1 diabetes. However, no significant success has been achieved in this regard. Studies or research are still going on to find out a permanent cure for this condition. But unless such a cure is found, patients have to depend on insulin to control the level of blood sugar.