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Type 1 Diabetes (T1DM)

What is Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes, is a chronic autoimmune condition in which the pancreas produces little to no insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels and allows glucose to enter cells to be used for energy. In individuals with type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, leading to insulin deficiency.

Risk factors

Type 1 diabetes typically develops early in life, often during childhood or adolescence, although it can occur at any age. The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors, such as viral infections or exposure to certain toxins.

Symptoms

  1. Frequent urination: Excess glucose in the blood is excreted through urine, leading to increased urination (polyuria).

  2. Excessive thirst: Increased urination can result in dehydration, leading to persistent thirst (polydipsia).

  3. Increased hunger: Despite eating, individuals may experience constant hunger (polyphagia) due to the body's inability to properly use glucose for energy.

  4. Unexplained weight loss: The body starts breaking down muscle and fat for energy when it cannot use glucose properly, leading to unintentional weight loss.

  5. Fatigue: Insufficient glucose in cells can result in fatigue and weakness, even with adequate food intake.

  6. Blurry vision: High blood sugar levels can cause fluid to be pulled from the lenses of the eyes, affecting vision.

Diagnoses

Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed through a combination of symptoms, blood tests, and other diagnostic criteria. Here's how it's diagnosed:

  1. Symptoms: Individuals with type 1 diabetes often experience symptoms such as frequent urination, excessive thirst, unexplained weight loss, increased hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, and irritability. These symptoms may develop rapidly over a few weeks or months.

  2. Blood tests: The diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is confirmed through blood tests that measure blood glucose levels and other markers of diabetes. The following blood tests are commonly used for diagnosis:

  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test: This test measures blood glucose levels after an overnight fast. A fasting plasma glucose level of 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher on two separate occasions is diagnostic of diabetes.

  • Random plasma glucose test:This test measures blood glucose levels at any time of the day, regardless of when the individual last ate. A random plasma glucose level of 200 mg/dL or higher, along with classic symptoms of diabetes, is diagnostic of diabetes.

  • Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT): This test measures blood glucose levels before and after consuming a sugary drink. A blood glucose level of 200 mg/dL or higher two hours after drinking the sugary solution is diagnostic of diabetes.

  1. Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test: This blood test measures the average blood glucose levels over the past two to three months. A hemoglobin A1C level of 6.5% or higher is diagnostic of diabetes.

Treatment options

If left untreated, type 1 diabetes can lead to serious complications, including diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a life-threatening condition characterized by high levels of blood acids called ketones. Management of type 1 diabetes typically involves daily insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump, along with monitoring blood sugar levels, following a healthy diet, and regular physical activity.

Can exercise help?

Exercise can be highly beneficial for individuals with type 1 diabetes by:

  1. Better blood sugar control: Exercise increases the body's sensitivity to insulin, allowing it to use glucose more effectively. This can lead to lower blood sugar levels during and after exercise, reducing the need for additional insulin or preventing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

  2. Reduces insulin resistance: Regular physical activity can help reduce insulin resistance, making insulin more efficient at lowering blood sugar levels.

  3. Promotes weight management: Exercise helps to control body weight by burning calories and building lean muscle mass, which can help prevent obesity and improve insulin sensitivity.

  4. Improves cardiovascular health: Aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, or cycling, strengthens the heart and improves circulation, reducing the risk of cardiovascular complications associated with diabetes.

  5. Enhances mood and mental well-being: Exercise releases endorphins, which can improve mood, reduce stress, and enhance overall mental well-being, important factors in managing diabetes.

  6. Increases energy levels: Regular physical activity can boost energy levels and reduce fatigue, making it easier to manage the demands of diabetes self-care.

  7. Enhances quality of life: Engaging in regular exercise can improve overall quality of life by increasing mobility, reducing the risk of complications, and promoting independence and self-confidence.

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