June 3, 2021

Type 1 Diabetes | Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Through this article we'll provide details on type 1 diabetes, its symptoms, complications, and treatments. Read on to learn more!

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Home / Living with Diabetes / Type 1 Diabetes | Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Its name may suggest otherwise, but type 1 diabetes is not the most common form of diabetes – that would be type 2 diabetes. Still, this condition is important to understand, especially if you are one of the almost 1.6 million people believed to have type 1 diabetes in America alone. 

Unlike type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes is marked by the pancreas’ partial or complete inability to produce insulin. This disease most commonly begins when a person is a child or teenager; however, adults can also develop type 1 diabetes. 

Though type 1 diabetes does not have a known cure, there are still some things people who have the disease or are at risk of developing it can do to make life easier for themselves. Here, you’ll learn about the symptoms and treatment of type 1 diabetes. 

Type 1 Diabetes Causes 

The precise cause of type 1 diabetes is not yet known, but it typically manifests as an autoimmune disorder. When a person has an autoimmune disorder, their immune system accidentally attacks healthy parts of their own body. In the case of type 1 diabetes, the cells that the immune system considers to be a threat are the pancreas’ insulin-producing islet cells. 

After enough islet cells have been destroyed by the immune system, a person living with type 1 diabetes will be unable to produce enough insulin to meet their body’s needs. This hormone is extremely important, as it is responsible for allowing glucose to enter cells. When insulin is not present or is present in insufficient quantities, glucose starts to build up in the bloodstream. 

There are a number of type 1 diabetes risk factors you should be aware of. These include a family history of type 1 diabetes and the presence of specific genes, among other factors. 

Symptoms Of Type 1 Diabetes 

Type 1 diabetes symptoms are wide-ranging and may appear seemingly out of nowhere. Here are some common symptoms to look out for: 


  • Excessive thirst and/or hunger 
  • More frequent urination (including bedwetting in children who didn’t wet the bed before) 
  • Mood changes, including irritability 
  • Blurry vision 
  • Weakness/fatigue 
  • Unexpected weight loss 

If you or a loved one shows any of these symptoms, contact your doctor as soon as possible. 

Common Type 1 Diabetes Complications 

Due to the crucial role insulin plays in the human body, the complications of type 1 diabetes can be extremely serious. This disease can affect many different organs when left untreated, and can even threaten the lives of people with diabetes. 

Some of the many possible complications associated with type 1 diabetes include: 

Heart/Blood Vessel Disease 

When a person has diabetes, their risk of running into cardiovascular issues goes up significantly. These problems can include everything from high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes – and more. 


The excess glucose that builds up in the bloodstream as a result of type 1 diabetes can damage the capillaries supporting a person’s nerves, resulting in tingles, a numb or burning sensation, or pain. This is particularly common in the legs, where it tends to start at the tips of the toes before spreading upwards. If not treated, neuropathy can ultimately lead to the permanent loss of sensation in a person’s limbs. 

Foot Damage 

Neuropathy and/or impaired blood flow in the feet can lead to any number of problems involving these body parts, such as untreated blisters or cuts. If they’re ignored for long enough, these could become seriously infected – to the point where amputations might be necessary. 

Kidney Damage 

Type 1 diabetes can wreak havoc on a person’s kidneys, which are responsible for filtering waste out of human blood. If this kidney damage (AKA “nephropathy”) is serious enough, it could lead to irreversible end-stage kidney disease or kidney failure. 

Pregnancy Complications 

When a mother is living with type 1 diabetes, it could impact both her and her baby. Untreated diabetes increases the likelihood of birth defects, stillbirth, and miscarriages. Meanwhile, pregnant women with diabetes have a higher risk of conditions like pregnancy-induced high blood pressure and preeclampsia. 

Is Type 1 Diabetes Prevention Possible? 

For many people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, prevention is a possibility – changes to a person’s exercise regimen and diet can go a long way towards helping them avoid this disease. But type 1 diabetes is different, and there is much less of a consensus on whether or not people with a family history of this condition can actively prevent it. 

Many different studies on type 1 diabetes prevention have taken place over the years, with the goal of slowing or fully stopping the autoimmune disorder’s progression. Experiments have ranged from giving people at risk of developing type 1 diabetes low doses of insulin to not introducing cow’s milk to the diets of young children. However, the results of this research have been mixed so far. 

Treatment For Type 1 Diabetes 

If you receive a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, one of the most important treatment methods for your condition is daily insulin injections. These can be administered with the traditional needle, or by an insulin pump. There is no “one-size-fits-all” insulin dose for people with diabetes – the insulin level you’ll need shifts over the course of each day, so regular blood sugar testing is essential.  

Some people with type 1 diabetes who have developed insulin resistance take an oral medication known as “metformin,” which reduces the liver’s sugar production to cut down on blood sugar levels. In May 2020, the FDA recommended that some makers of metformin extended release stop selling a number of products due to the presence of carcinogens. If you are using metformin, get in touch with your doctor to discuss this. 

Though they cannot prevent type 1 diabetes, lifestyle changes can make the treatment of this disease easier and more effective. Eating snacks and meals regularly throughout the day, along with regular exercise, can help keep blood glucose levels under control. 

A number of other treatments for type 1 diabetes are on the horizon. Notably, the tuberculosis vaccine is being tested for type 1 diabetes treatment, and a medicine called sotagliflozin is awaiting approval by the FDA. 


Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes can be worrying, but this condition isn’t a life sentence. By taking insulin therapy seriously and making some changes to your diet and exercise routine, you can live a healthy, fulfilling life while avoiding serious complications. 

At US MED, we’re proud to offer products that can help people with any form of diabetes live life to the fullest. To make insulin management as easy as possible, consider our selection of insulin pumps. We also have a wide range of blood glucose meters and continuous glucose monitoring systems available.

Shirley DeLeon Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist

Medical Review by Shirley DeLeon, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

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