What Is Type 1 Diabetes?

diabetic child

Story at-a-glance -

  • Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder wherein the immune system mistakes the healthy beta cells in the pancreas as foreign invaders and attacks them
  • This form of diabetes usually affects younger people, although it may occur at any age

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder wherein the immune system mistakes the healthy beta cells in the pancreas as foreign invaders and attacks them. As a result, the pancreas becomes incapable of producing insulin, which is a hormone that helps cells turn glucose into energy.

Without insulin, excessive amounts of glucose will accumulate in the bloodstream and eventually cause a barrage of life-threatening complications. Because of the impaired insulin production, people with Type 1 diabetes rely on insulin pumps or injections to manage their blood sugar levels.1

This form of diabetes usually affects younger people, although it may occur at any age. Currently, genetics is considered the major risk factor behind this disease. Researchers believe that individuals who inherited the genetic predisposition for Type 1 diabetes may develop it through certain triggers.2

The Prevalence of Type 1 Diabetes Continues to Rise

Type 1 diabetes is relatively uncommon, as it accounts for only 5 to 10 percent of diabetes conditions worldwide.3 However, the number of people who are diagnosed with this disease continues to rise every year.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the prevalence of Type 1 diabetes increased by 21 percent between 2001 and 2009.4

The American Diabetes Association also reports that there are about 1.25 million Americans with this form of diabetes in 2015, with 40,000 new cases being diagnosed every year. By 2050, it's expected that 5 million people in the U.S. are suffering from this disease.

Considering the growing cases of Type 1 diabetes, it's not surprising that annual healthcare costs amountto $14 billion in the United States.5 This increase has also led to a great deal of misinformation, making it harder for some diabetics to keep their health in check.

Common Misconceptions Regarding Type 1 Diabetes

A lot of information about Type 1 diabetes is widely available in the internet, while some is passed on through word of mouth. Unfortunately, not all of this information is correct. Here are some of the most common misconceptions regarding Type 1 diabetes that you should be aware of:6,7,8

  • Type 1 diabetes can be cured with insulin shots — While insulin injections may help your body prevent high blood sugar levels and prolong your life, they do not necessarily cure nor prevent Type 1 diabetes itself. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for this autoimmune disorder yet.9
  • Adults do not get Type 1 diabetes — Although Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed in children and adolescents, it may still affect adults, especially those who are above 30 years old.10
  • Type 1 diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar — Consuming high amounts of sugar does not cause Type 1 diabetes. The exact cause behind this autoimmune disorder is still unknown. Studies suggest that genetic and environmental factors may play a role in its development.11
  • Children with Type 1 diabetes will grow out of it — Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong and incurable disease. Children who are diagnosed with this form of diabetes unfortunately do not grow out of it. However, there are many ways to manage it.12

It's important to know the facts about Type 1 diabetes in order for you to manage your condition properly. Make sure that you consult your healthcare team for reliable information regarding this disease.

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