Health Focus Archive
: TYPE I
What is type I diabetes?
I diabetes, also called insulin-dependent diabetes, is
a disorder that occurs when your body produces little
or no insulin. Normally, when you eat carbohydrates, such
as bread, pasta, or fruits and vegetables, these foods
get broken down into glucose (sugar), your body's favorite
fuel. This fuel then travels through your bloodstream
until it's "unloaded" into your cells by insulin, which
functions a little like a team of chemical dockworkers.
But when you have type I diabetes, your immune system
goes haywire and attacks the cells in your pancreas that
produce insulin. Without these chemical dockworkers, the
sugar in your blood has no way to get into your cells,
so it builds up in your bloodstream. Your cells don't
get the fuel they need to function and literally begin
starving to death. Untreated, diabetes can lead to heart
disease, kidney disease, chronic infections, and other
life-threatening conditions. But with treatment, you can
don't yet know. They do know that diabetes runs in families
and often occurs after a viral infection, such as mumps.
While these viruses don't actually cause diabetes, researchers
believe they may trigger it in people who are genetically
are the symptoms?
I diabetes -- lack of insulin -- often appears suddenly,
causing increased thirst and frequent urination (which
may lead to bedwetting in children). These are signals
that your kidneys are using more water to reduce blood-sugar
levels. Lack of insulin also means not being able to use
the calories you consume, so you're likely to be very
hungry; lose a lot of weight; feel weak, tired, and irritable,
and possibly sick to your stomach.
gets type I diabetes?
estimated that 1.5 million Americans have type I diabetes.
The disease may apppear at any age, but usually begins
in childhood or early adulthood, most often among young
people with a sibling or parent who also has the disease.
are my treatment options?
there is no cure for diabetes. Once it develops, you'll
have it for the rest of your life. But that doesn't mean
you can't live a mostly healthful, active life. The key
is to keep your blood-sugar levels as close to normal
as possible. Work with your doctor and a dietitian to
develop a plan to balance eating, which raises blood-sugar
levels, with exercise and insulin, which lower blood-sugar
can I manage my diabetes?
closely with your doctor and nutritionist or certified
diabetes counselor. The more closely you manage your disease,
the less likely you are to have complications. And doctors
are learning more all the time about how to treat diabetes
and control blood sugar better.
doctor will start by helping you make sure your body gets
the insulin it needs. Because type I diabetics don't produce
insulin, you'll have to get it from an injection, once
to four times a day, or through a small pump attached
to a needle that feeds insulin directly into your body.
(Why needles? Unfortunately, stomach acids destroy insulin,
so it can't be taken in a pill.)
are some other ways you can help manage your diabetes:
· Watch what you eat. A healthful diet for a person with
diabetes is not all that different from a healthful diet
for a person without diabetes. Like everyone else, you
need a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, cereals,
breads, dairy products, and protein such as fish, meat,
or beans. Like everyone else, too, you need to limit fat
and sugar. But unlike everyone else, you need to be hypervigilant
about staying within your limits. Schedule your meals,
insulin shots, and activities to prevent your blood-sugar
level from getting too high or too low; eating small,
frequent meals instead of a few large ones can help.
Copyright © 1999 Consumer Health Interactive
and Consensus Health Corporation
your sugar intake, too. For decades, sugar was virtually
forbidden to diabetics because it was believed to increase
blood sugar more than other carbohydrates such as pasta
or potatoes--but new studies show that isn't so. That
doesn't mean you can eat all the sweets you want, though.
Sugar still counts as a carbohydrate, so if you eat
a sugary food you'll have to forego another carbohydrate.
And because sweets often contain empty calories (and
lots of fat), you're likely to forego valuable nutrients
as well. If you have a sweet tooth, consider artificial
sweeteners. They satisfy sweet cravings without adding
calories or raising blood-sugar levels, so indulging
regular exercise. Your body uses energy when it's active,
so exercise usually causes blood-sugar levels to fall,
and appears to help insulin work better. But be careful
that your blood sugar doesn't get too low while you're
exercising. It's always a good idea to check your levels
before and after any strenuous activity and to time
workouts to fit in with your meals and insulin injections--which
may mean eating a snack or decreasing your insulin before
stress. Physical stress such as overexertion, illness,
or injury can cause your blood-sugar levels to rise.
Mental stress can make blood sugar either rise or fall.
Either way, being rundown and stressed-out makes diabetes
harder to manage, so it's important to get enough rest
and learn to relax. Good stress-busting techniques include
meditation, breathing exercises, physical exercise,
and regular massage.
your blood-sugar level. To keep it under control you
have to know what it is, and the only way to do that
is to test yourself on a regular basis--generally several
times a day. To test your blood you'll prick your finger
and place a drop of blood on a strip of test paper,
then either wait for the strip to change color and match
it to a color chart or use a blood-glucose meter to
get a reading. Talk to your doctor, too, about other
tests you might need, including a yearly eye exam.
you're a woman, you should also be aware that your menstrual
cycle, pregnancy, and use of birth control pills or
IUDs that use hormones can cause big fluctuations in
your blood-sugar level, making it harder to control.
Talk to your doctor about how to factor these things
in to better manage your diabetes.