What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 Diabetes Awareness & Education - YouTube Video © timrosbranson 2011

The following information is an extract from a FactSheet provided by the JDRF (Australia):

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong autoimmune disease that destroys the ability to produce insulin, which is vital for life. It is generally diagnosed in childhood but can arise at any age and is not preventable.

The causes of the disease are not fully understood, but scientists believe that a person's genes play a role, as well as a variety of identified environmental factors. However, it is certain that going on a diet or cutting down on sugar does not stop type 1 diabetes.

People with type 1 diabetes must take up to 6 insulin injections or receive continuous infusion through an insulin pump every single day, just to stay alive.

122,300 Australian's have type 1 diabetes, and with 6 new cases diagnosed every day, Australia has one of the highest rates of type 1 diabetes in the world. Every year, the number of new cases in Australian children increases by 3%.

Type 1 diabetes is the fastest growing chronic disease amongst Australian children.

Diabetes...What's the difference?

Type 1 diabetes differs from type 2 diabetes in several important ways. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease where the body still produces insulin but is not able to use it properly. It can often be managed with diet and lifestyle changes, though insulin is sometimes required. Type 2 diabetes affects more people - around 700,000 Australians, usually those in middle age or beyond.

Once a patient is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which cannot be prevented, they will need lifelong insulin therapy to stay alive.

Insulin is a lifesaver, not a cure

Insulin injections or infusion from a pump allow a person with type 1 diabetes to stay alive but it is not a cure. Nor does it necessarily prevent the possibility of devastating complications, which can include kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, amputations, heart attack and stroke.

Staying alive with type 1 diabetes

People with type 1 diabetes face a rigorous daily regime of blood glucose management based on a heavy burden of responsibility for their future health because the more time patients spend outside the normal range of blood glucose, the greater their risk of serious health complications. Blood glucose is influenced by food intake and daily activities as well as a variety of other factors, including stress, hormonal changes, periods of growth, physical activity, medications, illness and fatigue.

Devastating health impact

Although many people with type 1 diabetes look healthy the disease ravages most organs and body systems. Health complications of type 1 diabetes are common and severe.

After 20-25 years of living with type 1 diabetes nearly all people will have some form of retinopathy, a serious eye condition. High blood glucose causes tiny aneurysms that lead to temporary or permanent blindness.

After 20-25 years of living with type 1 diabetes 60% of people will have some form of neuropathy, which is particularly debilitating. Damage to the nervous system impairs healing and all too often leads to amputation.

Type 1 diabetes is the leading cause of end-stage kidney disease, the most serious form of chronic kidney disease, which caused nearly 10% of all deaths in Australia in 2006.

The death rate for people with type 1 diabetes is three times higher than the general population.

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