What is type 1 diabetes

What is type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a serious lifelong condition where the glucose levels in your body are too high because your body cannot make a hormone called insulin. Insulin is made in the pancreas (an organ near the stomach) and it allows the glucose in our blood to enter your cells and fuel your body.

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Type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system (normally there to fight infection) attacks the insulin-producing cells (called beta cells) in the pancreas so you cannot produce any insulin. This is known as an autoimmune process.

This results in glucose building up in your bloodstream which can lead to serious complications.

What’s going on in my body?

The following diagram explains what goes on in your body when you have undiagnosed or untreated diabetes.

I eat something containing starch or sugar > Carbohydrate enters my stomach > Carbohydrate is broken down into glucose > The glucose enters the bloodstream > The pancreas doesn't release insulin needed to convert glucose into energy > Glucose builds up in the blood > The body tries various ways to get rid of the excess glucose > This causes the typical symptoms of diabetes such as weight loss, tiredness, feeling thirsty, frequent urination, which leads to diagnosis.

The ‘Honeymoon Period’

You may have heard of the ‘Honeymoon Period’ in relation to type 1 diabetes. This refers to the period of time, often soon after your diabetes diagnosis, when beta cells in the pancreas may temporarily make insulin again.

The honeymoon period happens because at diagnosis your pancreas still has a small number of beta cells that have not been fully destroyed. These cells ‘wake up’ when your glucose starts to come under control and will function normally for a short period of time (usually a few months but occasionally longer) before eventually dying off too.

In the next topic we’ll look at the common symptoms of diabetes which leads to diagnosis.




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