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Type 1 Diabetes

Diabetes is a metabolic disease marked by the presence of excessive sugar levels in the blood and urine. For individuals with diabetes, insulin does not function correctly in their body to control their blood sugar. Type I diabetes is the type associated with inadequate production of insulin by the pancreas and is often seen in younger patients and children.


The cause of type 1 diabetes is uncertain at the present time. Some physicians believe it is an autoimmune disorder or a disease that comes from the body attacking its insulin producing and using areas of the pancreas. Other providers believe that type 1 diabetes is related to a viral illness that affects pancreatic function. Perhaps both factors play a role in the development of this illness. Americans of all heritages are affected by diabetes but Native Americans have the most devastating forms of diabetes. It is not believed that diabetes is contagious from person to person but it is true that certain life stresses and body types are associated with a higher chance of having the disease.


Diagnosis is accomplished with blood and urine testing. Random blood sugar levels are evaluated with lab tests. To confirm the diagnosis, an oral glucose sample is given to the patient and blood is drawn at specific times after the liquid is ingested. Standard elevations of blood sugar are known to the lab evaluators and the patient is informed if his or her blood sugar is higher than expected after a certain amount of time after a glucose sample is swallowed. Another test, called the Hemoglobin A1C, evaluates the amount of hemoglobin that carries extra glucose models secondary to the elevated blood sugar. This value has a known range for individuals without diabetes and is elevated in individuals who do not have good diabetic control consistent with the lack of control of blood sugar. In other words, the higher the Hemoglobin A1C, the higher the blood sugar level has been over the past three weeks. The Hemoglobin A1C is a good way to look at long term glucose control and assess how successful the treatment plan has been at treating the disease. 


Most diabetics are treated with insulin through a pump or by injection and a diet that controls the amount and type of carbohydrates the patient eats. Many long-term medical problems are associated with diabetes including eye, heart, and kidney problems. Patients must monitor their blood sugar levels, check their Hemoglobin A1C levels, and visit their doctor regularly to assess the side effects of this illness.