In type 1 diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas, which are primarily designed to produce insulin in the body, are destroyed by the immune system itself. Destruction of these cells leads to deficiency of insulin which is required by the body to convert glucose into energy. An individual with type 1 diabetes experiences polyuria, dehydration, weight loss, blurring of vision, excessive fatigue, extreme hunger and thirst. It is relatively more common in children, adolescents and teenagers – which also explains why it was earlier called ‘juvenile diabetes’.
Life Expectancy for People With Type 1 Diabetes
While there is no way to reverse the damage done to pancreatic cells, it is possible to manage this condition with the help of healthy lifestyle changes, including controlling the amount of carbohydrates ingested and by monitoring blood glucose levels, and of course, with the help of insulin replacement therapy. Easier said than done though!
It is very difficult to ascertain the life expectancy for this condition due to the incomprehensible nature of the ailment regarding its exact cause, and due to the lack of data. Many factors come into play when you try to calculate the same. Researchers believe that the life expectancy of this diabetes type, to a great extent, depends on the age at which the ailment is diagnosed.
A study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh – Graduate School of Public Health revealed that the life expectancy of people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes has improved over the years. In a prospective study spanning a period of 30 years, from 1950 to 1980, researchers divided individuals into two groups – first group comprised individuals diagnosed with type 1 diabetes between 1950 and 1965, and second comprised those who were diagnosed between 1965 and 1980.
While those diagnosed between 1950 and 1965 had a life expectancy of 53.4 years, those who were diagnosed between 1965 and 1980 had a life expectancy of 68.8 years – an improvement of 15 years. Even though we are yet to find a cure for type 1 diabetes, the recent developments in the field of medicine have helped in providing better treatment, thus improving the life expectancy and the quality of life of people suffering from this condition.
If adequate measures, like controlling the diet and ensuring that the correct dose of insulin is taken on a timely basis, are taken, then all concerns rested, a person having diabetes mellitus type 1 can live a long and healthy life. Yes, there may be a few problems with this condition, however this has not deterred people from doing and achieving anything they wish for. For instance, the tennis great Billie Jean King, who despite being a type 1 diabetes patient, went on to win twelve Grand Slam singles titles.
Thus, in short the whole concept of life expectancy in this case is more of a negative implication rather than an evaluation about the longevity of a person with this disease. In fact, the very word ‘life expectancy’ is a misnomer, as when one calculates the so-called ‘life expectancy’, they calculate an aggregate of the years lived by many different people suffering from that disease; so if the life expectancy of a certain disease is say fifty years, it is possible that this figure was reached after taking the mean of a person who lived for twenty-five years and one lived for seventy-five years into consideration. Hence, as you can see, it doesn’t mean that a person suffering from this disease will die at fifty years because there was already a person who lived for seventy-five years with it!
Other than the intake of insulin, healthy living is an important factor which has played a vital role in improving the life expectancy of people suffering from type 1 diabetes. Researchers are working in order to find out the possibility of completely curing or preventing this form of diabetes from occurring. Until these researches yield results, we need to manage the ailment in as healthy way, as possible. There are so many people like Larry King, Halle Berry and Mae West who have and are not only living a long and healthy life, but are living life to the fullest, despite being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.