Diabetes affects millions of people around the world. Approximately 95% of diabetics have type 2 diabetes. If you or someone you love is in the 5%, you probably wonder if there is a Type 1 diabetes cure.
There are many harmful misconceptions regarding Type 1 diabetes. For example, many people believe that it is a childhood disease. However, this could not be farther from the truth. Today, we would like to teach you what Type 1 diabetes is, how it is treated, and if there is a Type 1 diabetes cure.
What Is Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is sometimes known as juvenile diabetes. This is because the disease is most often diagnosed in children between 4 and 7 years of age and children between the ages of 10 and 14. However, anyone can develop Type 1 diabetes at any age.
More adults than children have this disease. It is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes. This chronic condition is characterized by little-to-no insulin production in the pancreas. Insulin is a key hormone required to let sugar, or glucose, enter cells and produce energy.
Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes
Signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes often appear fairly suddenly and include:
- Wetting the bed in children who did not previously wet the bed at night
- Blurred vision
- Extreme hunger
- Weakness and fatigue
- Irritability and other mood changes
- Unintended weight loss
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
If you notice any of the above symptoms in yourself or a loved one, consult with your primary care physician.
Causes of Type 1 Diabetes
Nobody yet knows the exact cause of Type 1 diabetes. Typically, the body's immune system, which is responsible for fighting harmful bacteria and viruses, accidentally destroys the insulin-producing cells, known as islet cells, which are found in the pancreas.
Other potential causes of Type 1 diabetes include genetics and exposure to environmental factors such as viruses.
The Role of Insulin
When enough islet cells are killed, someone affected by Type 1 diabetes will produce little-to-no insulin. The role of insulin in your health begins in the pancreas, the organ responsible for excreting insulin into your bloodstream. As the insulin circulates, it allows sugar to enter your cells, thereby reducing your blood glucose level (how much sugar is in your bloodstream). As your blood glucose levels drop, so does the secretion rate of insulin from your pancreas.
The Role of Glucose
Glucose is a type of sugar that is the primary energy source for the cells that make up our tissues, such as muscles. Its two primary sources are food and your liver. Glucose is stored in the liver as glycogen.
Sugar is absorbed into your bloodstream through food. Then, it enters your tissue cells with the help of insulin. When you have not eaten in a while, your glucose levels become low. In response to this, your liver breaks down its glycogen stores and converts it into glucose. This helps you keep your glucose levels within a healthy range.
When you have Type 1 diabetes, your body does not produce enough insulin to allow glucose into your cells. Thus your blood sugar levels rise and this can lead to life-threatening complications.
How Do You Treat Type 1 Diabetes?
Treatment for type 1 diabetes includes:
- Counting your macros (carbs, fat and protein)
- Eating healthy foods
- Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight
- Monitoring your blood sugar frequently
- Taking insulin
The goal of Type 1 diabetes treatment is keeping your blood glucose level as close to normal as you can. This can delay or even prevent complications. Ideally, you will be able to keep your daytime blood sugar levels between 80 and 130 mg/dL before meals. Your after-meal numbers should not exceed 180 mg/dL two hours following a meal.
If you suffer from Type 1 diabetes, you will require lifelong insulin therapy. Types of insulin you may have to take include short-acting (regular) insulin, rapid-acting insulin, intermediate-acting (NPH) insulin and long-acting insulin. Insulin may be delivered by injection with an insulin pen. This insulin pen may be refillable or disposable.
Alternatively, you may receive insulin through an insulin pump. This device is worn outside your body and is programmed to automatically deliver rapid-acting insulin when necessary.
In September 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first artificial pancreas. It was tested and approved for safety and efficacy in people with Type 1 diabetes who are at least 14 years of age. It is also known as a closed-loop insulin delivery. This implanted device communicates with a glucose monitor that checks blood glucose levels every five minutes. The insulin pump delivers the right amount of insulin automatically when indicated as necessary by the monitor.
There is no diet specifically for diabetes treatment. If you have Type 1 diabetes, your diet should be centered around nutrient-dense, low-fat, high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Dieticians also recommend that you eat fewer animal products and processed carbohydrates.
Additionally, you need to learn how to count how many grams of carbohydrates you are consuming with each meal. This way, you can inject yourself with enough insulin to metabolize the carbs you eat properly. Create a meal plan that provides your body with enough nutritious fuel to operate at peak efficiency. If you need help, ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian.
Everyone, including people with Type 1 diabetes, needs regular aerobic exercise. Consult with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to exercise. If you are, discover which aerobic activities you enjoy, like rowing or cycling. Make them part of your daily routine.
Your goal should be to complete 150 minutes of aerobic exercise weekly, or 30 minutes daily five days per week. Try not to go more than two days a week with no exercise. Children should have at least an hour of physical activity daily.
It is important to remember when starting a new exercise routine that exercise lowers blood sugar levels. Check your blood sugar levels more frequently than you do now until you learn how a new activity affects your blood glucose levels. You may discover that you need to adjust your insulin doses or meal plan to compensate for an increased level of activity.
Currently, there are two potential future treatments for Type 1 diabetes. The first is a pancreas transplant. If your pancreas transplant is successful, you will no longer need insulin. However, the risks of an unsuccessful pancreas transplant can be more dangerous than diabetes itself.
Thus, this is usually reserved for people with extreme difficulty managing their diabetes or those who also need a kidney transplant. Hopefully, in the future, pancreas transplants will become safer so this Type 1 diabetes treatment option becomes more viable.
Islet Cell Transplantation
Researchers are currently experimenting with transplanting islet cells from a donor pancreas. This experimental procedure has not been too successful in the past. However, new techniques and better drugs are being created to prevent your body from rejecting the transplanted islet cells. There is reason to believe that islet cell transplantation will become a successful treatment method in the future.
Is There a Type 1 Diabetes Cure?
Unfortunately, despite active research, there is not yet a Type 1 diabetes cure. The best anyone can hope for is lifetime treatment. There is also no known way to prevent Type 1 diabetes. However, researchers are working tirelessly on preventing further destruction caused by the disease on the islet cells of people who have been diagnosed recently.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed recently, ask your primary care physician if you are a good candidate for one of these clinical trials. However, you must carefully weigh all benefits and risks of any treatment offered to you in a trial.
Type 1 diabetes is erroneously known as juvenile diabetes, but this chronic condition is more prevalent in adults than children. It can develop at any time but is most commonly diagnosed in 4- to 7-year-olds and 10- to 14-year-olds. While there is not yet a Type 1 diabetes cure, researchers are working on the prevention of further damage in recently diagnosed cases.
Recently, the FDA approved the use of an artificial pancreas to treat Type 1 diabetes. This artificial pancreas is still available in clinical trials as a treatment method. However, the most common treatment methods of Type 1 diabetes are a healthy diet and weight, regular exercise, consistent monitoring of glucose in your blood, and insulin therapy.
If you notice any symptoms of Type 1 diabetes in yourself or a loved one, consult with your doctor. If she tells you that you are a good candidate to participate in a clinical trial, make sure you understand and consider all risks and rewards of the treatment method offered you. Remember, there is not yet a Type 1 diabetes cure, but your participation in a clinical trial could help scientists develop one.
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