Usually, people who develop type 1 diabetes have a normal number of pancreatic beta cells at birth. The pancreas at first remains in good health. At some point in childhood, the immune system is triggered to begin a slow attack on the cells in the pancreas. It is still not known what triggers this change. Over months and years, the immune system destroys beta cells until the pancreas has fewer and fewer of them.
Symptoms do not appear until about 80% of the beta cells are gone. At that time, a person with type 1 diabetes will not be able to "burn" glucose for energy. Instead, the body will begin to produce emergency fuels called ketones. Excess glucose and a buildup of ketones both cause the person to become ill.
Some or all of the following symptoms will occur:
- Excessive thirst or dry mouth
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Weight loss
- Weakness or constantly feeling tired
- An urge to eat more often
- Vomiting or nausea
- Inability to pay attention
- Fruity odor on the breath
Symptoms To Look for in Young Children
Children with diabetes may not complain clearly about their symptoms. However, parents may notice changes in their behavior, their eating or their pattern of bathroom use. For example, a child may start waking in the middle of the night to urinate. He or she may wet the bed after months or years of being dry. Lower grades in school might be another clue. The child may have trouble concentrating, have blurry vision, or feel too tired to study.
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