The pancreas organ is responsible for producing insulin in the body. It does this through specific cells called beta cells. In patients with Type 1 diabetes, these beta cells get destroyed, typically because of an error made by the immune system. Insulin cannot be made without beta cells. This is important because it is the job of the insulin to carry sugar, via blood, to cells throughout the body. Sugar is what gives cells the energy needed to carry out their specific duties. When sugar builds up in the blood, due to an absence of insulin production, diabetes is developed.
Symptoms to look for in a person with Type 1 diabetes include extreme thirst, frequent urination, loss of energy, increased appetite, sudden and unexplained weight loss, sudden changes in vision, sugar in urine, fruity breath odor and heavy breathing.
There is no cure for Type 1 diabetes, but there is effective treatment. It involves testing blood sugar levels by pricking the finger for blood. The drop of blood is placed on a glucose strip which indicates the level of sugar present. This is done about six times per day. Insulin shots are administered to try and regulate the amount of sugar in the blood. Sugar content in food must also be taken into consideration. Because this regulation can be difficult, patients need to be prepared for hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemic (high blood sugar) reactions. Other complications that may arise over an extended amount of time include eye sight damage, kidney failure, nerve damage and heart problems.
Complications may be minimized, even prevented, if a strict regimen is kept that ensures blood sugar levels are within a specific target range. That means remembering to always check blood sugar levels at the appropriate times, adjusting levels through diet and insulin injections and carrying out any other suggestions made by the physician.
There is hope. Patients with Type 1 diabetes can go on to live a normal, active and even famous life. In the Countdown for Kids Magazine, Mary Tyler Moore tells kids with diabetes to let your friends know about the condition and what you do to stay healthy. The more they know, the less alone youll feel.
Jay Leeuwenburgs motto is You need to control your diabetes, not let your diabetes control you. You can do anything you want, as long as you manage your blood sugar. It shouldnt keep you from doing anything.
Gary Hall, Jr. says that its important to realize that being diagnosed doesnt have to be the end of your active life. You can go out and do as well as anybody out there, at whatever sport you play, as long as you have proper maintenance.
Nicole Johnsons message to kids is Nobody is perfect or has perfect blood sugars every single day, so dont get discouraged about that. Just try as hard as you can. Understand that regardless of your circumstances in life, you can accomplish all that you want to. You can achieve your dreams.
If you would like more information on diabetes talk to your doctor or contact the American Diabetes Association or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.