What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes makes up for approximately five to 10 percent of diabetes in the United States.

More commonly, it is diagnosed within the winter months or at times of stress and is witnessed in particular among those of Northern European descent.

Per capita, Scandinavian Finland has the highest rates of type 1 diabetes in the world, while the United States follows closely behind.

Although type 1 diabetes may develop at any age, teens and young adults are particularly predisposed to the disease, with approximately two from every three people who have it aged below 20.

What Causes Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is brought on by the destruction of pancreatic cells called beta or islet cells. These cells are responsible for producing the body's insulin, and are destroyed by antibodies that are in fact part of the immune system, which gives rise to the fact that type 1 diabetes is an "autoimmune disease".

Once upwards of 50 percent of the beta cells have been destroyed, sugar levels then tend to rise rapidly which results in the onset of diabetes.

The precise cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. Potential etiologies include infections such as viruses and congenital rubella, environmental toxins, exposure to cow's milk, in addition to exposure to various childhood foods. It's likely that there is a genetic predisposition to this disease although 90 percent of sufferers have no first-degree relatives who also suffer.

Thus, it is considered that exposure results from a genetically susceptible individual. Upon diagnosis, type 1 diabetes enters into what is termed as a remission phase in about 60 percent of sufferers. This is known as the "honeymoon phase". Typically, it will occur from one to four months after diagnosis, and is a little more common among older sufferers. Generally, the duration of this phase is only one to two months.


Pancreatic transplants in addition to immune therapy are considered as the two principle therapies for sufferers.

However, transplants are normally reserved for those who are simultaneously receiving a kidney transplant, in part due to the scarcity of appropriate pancreases, and also because of the risks this type of surgery possess.

Pancreatic beta cell transplants can be successful in allowing sufferers to discontinue insulin therapy, although it may only be a short term facet because in the main, insulin therapy is required once more within a period of two years post op.

There are a number of studies currently underway whereby antibodies are used to destroy opposing antibodies responsible for the destruction of the beta cells.

Thus far, long-term results are unavailable. In addition to the various studies, there are also a variety of insulin formulations and delivery systems which are available to treat those who suffer with type 1 diabetes. What it mainly comes down to is good management of the condition from early on.

Exercise and Diet

Sufferers should try to eat at the same times each day. Further, consuming the same food types also helps to prevent blood sugar fluctuations.

Discussing diet with a nutritional expert is advised. Daily exercise will help to control blood sugar levels as well as being instrumental in weight control.

However, special steps must be taken prior to, during, and after intense physical exercise. As such, it's advisable to discuss this with your health care provider.