Type 1 Diabetes

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is a disease that is caused by problems within the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ that is located just behind and below the stomach on the left hand side of your body. It contains many different types of cells grouped into islets of langerhans, the most important are the β and γ cells, which produce and release hormones called insulin and glucagon. These two hormones are vital in controlling how much sugar there is in your blood stream.

Why your Blood Sugar Level Rises

  • Following a meal, the carbohydrates and sugars that are contained within the food are broken down in your digestive tract to the smallest parts possible. This is a sugar molecule called glucose, which is used by all the cells in your body to produce energy for vital processes such as growth. After your body has digested all the food, the glucose is absorbed into your blood so that it can get to all the different areas of your body. The concentration of glucose in your blood is called the blood sugar level and the hormones released from the pancreas aim to keep this at a constant level throughout the day.
  • When your blood sugar levels begin to rise following a meal or snack, the β cells within your pancreas detect this and release insulin into your blood. The majority of cells within your body have special detectors for insulin called receptors. These are especially prevalent on cells in your muscles and liver. When insulin binds to these receptors, they tell the cell that it needs to take up glucose and store it within the cell. The muscle and liver cells do this by converting glucose into glycogen, which makes it much easier to store within the cell.
  • Once the majority of the excess glucose has been removed from the blood, the β cells within the pancreas stop releasing insulin. This stops cells from removing any glucose from the blood, helping to maintain a normal blood sugar concentration.
  • There are a number of problems that can lead to you developing type 1 diabetes mellitus, however they all stem from damage that is done to the β cells of the pancreas. If you have type 1 diabetes mellitus, following a meal when your blood sugar begins to rise, the damaged β cells of the pancreas can no longer release insulin. Without this vital hormone, the concentration of glucose within your blood rises uncontrollably. This is known medically as hyperglycaemia, literally meaning ‘high sugar blood’.  It is very dangerous, as the high blood sugar causes water to be drawn out from the cells of your vital organs such as your brain. This can cause you to become unconscious and even fall into a coma. If not treated rapidly with insulin it can even lead to death.

Thankfully type 1 diabetes can be treated very effectively with insulin replacement or even transplant surgery. The following articles will give you some insight into the condition, the symptoms you should look out for, how it is diagnosed and what treatment will entail. It will also provide you with vital information about the different checkups that are needed, when you will need them and why. There is also a comprehensive guide to living with diabetes and any extra help you may need.

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