What Is Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the glucose (sugar) from food cannot enter body cells to be used for energy. This occurs because the body produces too little of a hormone called insulin. Insulin is needed to move glucose out of your blood into cells. The illness used to be called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.
Normally, insulin is made by special cells (beta cells) in the pancreas. This organ is connected to the intestines. It helps to digest food. After insulin enters the blood, it helps body cells to absorb glucose from the blood. Most cells use glucose immediately as fuel. Liver cells can store it for future use.
In people with type 1 diabetes, the body's own immune system destroys the beta cells in the pancreas. Therefore, the disease is referred to as an "autoimmune" disease. After the beta cells are gone, the body no longer can make insulin.
As a result of type 1 diabetes, muscle cells and other tissues do not have normal energy. Sugar builds up in the blood. The extra sugar interferes with control of body fluids. Your kidneys make more urine than you should produce. You become very tired and thirsty. You also have to urinate often.
Over time, having high amounts of sugar in the blood also can damage the eyes, heart, kidneys, blood vessels and nervous system.
Fortunately, type 1 diabetes can be treated. Insulin that looks and works the same as that produced by the body can be made in a laboratory. Insulin can't be swallowed in pill or liquid form. Your stomach juices would digest it just like other proteins in food. Instead, insulin is injected with a needle into the fat just under the skin. From there, insulin makes its way into the bloodstream.
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