Health conditions

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a condition where the pancreas does not produce insulin because the cells which make insulin have been destroyed by the immune system.

Type 1 diabetes accounts for 10 to 15 per cent of all people with diabetes. It usually occurs in people under 30, but can occur at any age.

How do you get type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is classified as an autoimmune condition. An autoimmune condition is where your body’s defence system (the immune system) is triggered to attack healthy tissue.

In type 1 diabetes, the immune system is triggered by a gene or genes. People are born either with or without the genes (13 genes have been identified). People without the genes will not develop type 1 diabetes and people born with the gene may or may not develop type 1 diabetes.

This gene is thought to have been stimulated by an environmental event. Once the gene has been stimulated it triggers the immune system to attack the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin and slowly destroys them.

The destruction of these cells reaches a critical point where there are not enough cells to produce enough insulin to control blood glucose levels, and the person then starts to develop the signs and symptoms of diabetes.

Signs and symptoms

Signs may include the following:

  • thirst
  • frequent urination
  • lethargy or being very tired
  • blurred vision
  • sudden unexplained/unplanned weight loss
  • infections or wounds that don't improve
  • constant hunger
  • mood swings.

Finding a cure

At this time, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes. It is hoped that the multiple research studies currently being conducted world-wide will lead to better knowledge about type 1 diabetes and, eventually, a cure.

Managing type 1 diabetes

Insulin replacement therapy is critical for the person with type 1 diabetes to live. It is as important to balance insulin replacement with physical activity, healthy eating and stress management to avoid or reduce the short and long term complications of diabetes.

Insulin replacement therapy available today is given either by multiple daily injections of insulin or an insulin pump.

Another form of insulin replacement therapy is an islet cell (the cells that produce insulin) transplant. A transplant is not a cure, it is a different form of treatment. Depending on the circumstances, it may be an option. If so, it means weighing up the pros and cons of insulin therapy against the pros and cons of anti-rejection therapy and what is best suited to you. The best person to discuss this with is your diabetes specialist.

Latent autoimmune diabetes of adults

Latent autoimmune diabetes of adults (LADA) is a slow progressing form of type 1 diabetes that can be managed in the early stages without insulin therapy. It has been reported that many people with LADA are misdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Find more information on LADA at Diabetes WA (external site).

Where to get help

  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP after hours
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222
  • Phone the Diabetes WA Advice Line on 1300 001 880

Remember

  • Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition.
  • There is no cure for type 1 diabetes but it can be managed with a combination of insulin replacement therapy and healthy lifestyle choices.

This information provided by

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Acknowledgements
Diabetes WA

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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