Type 1 diabetes (T1D), formerly known as juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune disease that originates when cells that make insulin (beta cells) are destroyed by the immune system. Insulin is a hormone required for the cells to use blood sugar for energy and it helps regulate glucose levels in the bloodstream. Before treatment this results in high blood sugar levels in the body. The common symptoms of this elevated blood sugar are frequent urination, increased thirst, increased hunger, weight loss, and other serious complications.[ Additional symptoms may include blurry vision, tiredness, and slow wound healing. Symptoms typically develop over a short period of time, often a matter of weeks.
The cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The underlying mechanism involves an autoimmune destruction of the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Diabetes is diagnosed by testing the level of sugar or glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C) in the blood. Type 1 diabetes can be distinguished from type 2 by testing for the presence of autoantibodies.
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There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes. Treatment with insulin is required for survival. Insulin therapy is usually given by injection just under the skin but can also be delivered by an insulin pump. A diabetic diet and exercise are important parts of management. If left untreated, diabetes can cause many complications. Complications of relatively rapid onset include diabetic ketoacidosis and nonketotic hyperosmolar coma. Long-term complications include heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, foot ulcers and damage to the eyes. Furthermore, since insulin lowers blood sugar levels, complications may arise from low blood sugar if more insulin is taken than necessary.
Type 1 diabetes makes up an estimated 5–10% of all diabetes cases. The number of people affected globally is unknown, although it is estimated that about 80,000 children develop the disease each year. Within the United States the number of people affected is estimated at one to three million. Rates of disease vary widely, with approximately one new case per 100,000 per year in East Asia and Latin America and around 30 new cases per 100,000 per year in Scandinavia and Kuwait. It typically begins in children and young adults.
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People with type 1 diabetes are at an increased risk for developing several autoimmune disorders, particularly thyroid problems – around 20% of people with type 1 diabetes have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, typically caused by Hashimoto thyroiditis or Graves’ disease respectiveley. Celiac disease affects 2–8% of people with type 1 diabetes, and is more common in those who were younger at diabetes diagnosis, and in white people. Type 1 diabetics are also at increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, autoimmune gastritis, pernicious anemia, vitiligo, and Addison’s disease. Conversely, complex autoimmune syndromes caused by mutations in the immunity-related genes AIRE (causing autoimmune polyglandular syndrome), FoxP3 (causing IPEX syndrome), or STAT3 include type 1 diabetes in their effects.
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