Understand Symptoms and Signs of Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is sometimes considered the type of diabetes that is not preventable. The disease occurs because the body’s immune system destroys the pancreatic cells responsible for producing insulin. Researchers are unsure why this happens, but it results in an insulin deficiency, which means the body is unable to process sugar into energy – in a normal body, sugar is moved into cells with the assistance of insulin.

Since insulin is not available for a type 1 diabetic, sugar builds up in the blood stream and cells are starved for nutrition. This taxes other systems in the body and overloads the blood with sugar, which is to what the common diabetic term “high blood sugar” refers.


Type 1 diabetes causes four major problems to occur in the body. The first is dehydration. Sugar in the blood increases the desire to urinate, so water leaves the body in unhealthy amounts. Type 1 diabetics also experience weight loss. Urinating more often allows calories to leave the body, thus resulting in weight loss.

Another problem that occurs with type 1 diabetes is diabetic ketoacidosis. When cells are starving for energy, the body turns to fat cells to survive. The process of the fat breakdown includes the release of ketones into the blood. This acidic material builds up and creates an acidic environment in the body. The combination of this, dehydration, and heightened blood sugar triggers ketoacidosis. It is life threatening if not treated immediately.

Finally, type 1 diabetes is generally hard on the body and diabetics often experience damage to the eyes, heart, kidneys, and arteries. They also experience a greater risk of stroke and heart attack.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

The symptoms associated with type 1 diabetes often develop rapidly. Early symptoms are sometimes overlooked, but serious symptoms that cannot go unnoticed eventually develop. The earliest symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:

• Extreme thirst
• Dry mouth
• Frequent urination and possible bed wetting in young, potty-trained children
• Increased hunger that unexplainably occurs soon after eating
• Weight loss
• Fatigue
• Blurred vision
• Vomiting

As blood sugar levels rise and fat and muscle are broken down for energy, more severe symptoms arise. They are an indication of a medical emergency and indicate the development of diabetic ketoacidosis. These symptoms include:

• Shaking
• Fruity smelling breath
• Flushed, hot, dry skin
• Abdominal pain
• Rapid deep breathing
• Drowsiness
• Restlessness
• Confusion
• Possible coma

Your Role in Managing Type 1 Diabetes

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above or you have other reasons for believing you or a loved one may have developed type 1 diabetes, schedule an appointment with your doctor. If you or a loved one experiences any of the emergency indicators, contact emergency services immediately.

It is important to realize lifestyle choices can make managing type 1 diabetes easier. Though it is sometimes consider the type of diabetes that is unpreventable, there are ways to make life with type 1 diabetes easier. A recent study by Joslin Diabetes Center researchers found that the amount of fat a person eats can have an effect on glucose levels in type 1 diabetics. This indicates that a change in diet i.e. lowering fat intake, could alter the amount of insulin patients require to manage their disease effectively.