In Type 1 diabetes, the body attacks and destroys its own beta cells – the specific cells inside the pancreas that produce insulin. The beta cells cannot function properly, or there are not enough beta cells left to produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder.
Currently, we don’t know exactly what causes the body to turn on its own beta cells. Scientists believe that genes, environmental factors and/or viruses can play a role. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes include excessive thirst, urination and/or hunger; weight loss; blurred vision; and extreme fatigue.
About 5 to 10 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have type 1. Usually, this form of diabetes is diagnosed in childhood or early adulthood, but it can appear at any age.
Those with type 1 diabetes are vulnerable to diabetic ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition that can lead to a diabetic coma and even death.
About diabetic ketoacidosis
When glucose can’t be processed, the body metabolizes fat instead, and the byproducts of that fat (ketones) build up in the bloodstream. In high levels, ketones are poisonous.
Diabetic ketoacidosis is sometimes the first or only sign of type 1 diabetes, when the disease remains undiagnosed. This is why it’s important to stay under the care of a family doctor or general practitioner and receive a physical and bloodwork as often as recommended by your physician. Your doctor can detect signs of type 1 diabetes even if you are feeling no symptoms.
Other factors that can precipitate diabetic ketoacidosis in people with type 1 diabetes include infection, injury, a serious illness or surgery. The condition also can develop when the patient misses doses of insulin or sometimes can develop spontaneously. It is critical for those with type 1 diabetes to remain under the care of a diabetes specialist.
Those with type 2 diabetes rarely develop diabetic ketoacidosis. In these individuals, an illness can precipitate it. Also, Latino and African-American individuals with type 2 diabetes are more vulnerable to developing diabetic ketoacidosis than others.