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What is type 1 diabetes?

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Type 1 diabetes symptoms and causes

Whether you already live with type 1 diabetes or are newly diagnosed,
we’re here to help with diabetes advice, help and support.

What is type 1 diabetes and how is it different to type 2?

Type 1 diabetes is affecting around 360,000 people in the UK today.* Diabetes is a lifelong, metabolic condition that affects an individual’s blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. Our body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose – small, sugar units that are used up in cells to provide the body with energy. Under normal circumstances, an organ called the pancreas produces insulin, which is a hormone designed to control the amount of glucose in the blood.

However, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the pancreas no longer produces any insulin. As a result, unused glucose builds up in the blood, causing blood sugar levels to become too high. This can lead to the sudden development of potentially life-threatening symptoms.

Type 1 diabetes symptoms

As the body tries to remove the excess glucose through urine and break down fat as an alternative source of energy, people with type 1 diabetes typically experience the following symptoms:

  • Needing to urinate more, especially during the night
  • Often feeling thirsty
  • Increased tiredness and drowsiness
  • Loss of weight and muscle bulk
  • Itchiness around the genital area or regularly contracting thrush (yeast infection)
  • Fruity-smelling breath

Whilst in adults Type 1 diabetes symptoms can develop over a few months, for children it can be a matter of weeks or days. However, with the right treatment, they should disappear. If you have not been diagnosed with diabetes and frequently experience these symptoms, you should visit a health care professional as soon as possible.

Causes of type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition; which means that the body attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It has not yet been determined what triggers this autoimmunity; it is just known that, unlike type 2 diabetes, lifestyle factors do not contribute to its development. However, what is certain is that there are risk factors:

  • It can be hereditary. If one of your close relatives has type 1 diabetes, this includes a mother, father, sister or brother, then your chance of developing it increases by 6%
  • Damage to the pancreas, such as through injury, can inhibit its ability to produce insulin
  • Some researchers suggest that a viral infection or illness, affecting the pancreas, could also be one of the causes of type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes treatment

It may take a little while for you to get your head around monitoring your blood glucose levels and managing your treatment, but be patient with yourself. Through the right support, which we can offer you here at LloydsPharmacy, life with diabetes will not hold you back.

In order to maintain normal blood glucose levels, Type 1 diabetes treatment involves regular doses of insulin. This can come in the form of insulin injections – most people need 2-4 a day – or, alternatively, insulin pump therapy, which involves a small device that continuously pumps insulin into your bloodstream at a controllable rate.

Make sure you keep track of your glucose levels, this can be done quickly and simply with blood glucose tests that you can buy online.

Type 1 diabetes testing

Our range of blood glucose testing kits can help you keep on top of your levels in the comfort of your own home. For Type 1 diabetes, you should test around 3 or 4 times a day, preferably before meals and 2 hours after meals.

AccuChek’s device simply tests your glucose levels with a small finger prick sample of blood. The strips then provide a blood glucose measurement or, alternatively, with the mobile test cassette that means there is no handling or disposing of test strips. We have a range of strips and lancets available to buy.