type 1 diabetes mellitus

What is type 1 diabetes mellitus?

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Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus results when the pancreas, an organ that is responsible for secreting digestive enzymes into the small intestine, fails to produce enough insulin leading to an elevated blood glucose level. Insulin is an important enzyme specifically in Beta cells of the pancreas and is in charge of regulating blood glucose levels. Secretion of insulin after consumption of food triggers the liver, muscle cells and fat cells to store glucose from the blood for energy. In addition, this process prevents glucose from accumulating in the blood stream leading to hyperglycemia that has detrimental effects such as heart disease and nerve neuropathy.

The mechanism by which the pancreatic beta cells are selectively destroyed is still unknown. However, studies have postulated that it is multifactorial in origin such as environmental triggers that interact with genetic susceptibility factors. After the destruction of the beta cells, inflammation abates and the cells become atrophic.  On the other hand, this spares the non-insulin producing cells of the pancreas, such as the alpha cells and delta cells.

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus is also usually associated with other autoimmune diseases such as Celiac disease, Grave’s disease, Pernicious anemia and Addison’s disease. However, it would take 4 to 10 years from the onset of type 1 Diabetes Mellitus before these autoimmune diseases are acquired.

Furthermore, diabetes Mellitus is one of the most common metabolic disorders worldwide. In fact, in 2013, it is estimated that roughly around 382 million people suffer from this condition. However, type 1 Diabetes Mellitus is far less common than type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, owning only 10% of the total cases.

Signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes mellitus

Signs and symptoms of type 1 Diabetes Mellitus most commonly occur acutely but may also be insidious in nature.

  • At first, polyuria or increased frequency of urination
  • Polydipsia or increased thirst
  • Polyphagia or increase hunger
  • Weight loss and fatigue
  • Increased susceptibility to infections such as vaginal yeast infection in females
  • Blurred vision
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Familial tendency
  • Peak incidence of 10 to 15 years old
  • Lastly, insulin dependent


Complications of type 1 Diabetes Mellitus results from the persistent elevated levels of blood glucose. Over time, this can damage several organs and nerves in the body. The following are the complications:

  • Diabetes increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke
  • Neuropathy or nerve damage especially in the distal extremities such as the foot that may lead to poor blood flow
  • Nephropathy or kidney damage that may eventually lead to end stage renal failure
  • Diabetic retinopathy or eye damage that may eventually lead to loss of vision
  • Skin and mouth conditions such as bacterial and fungal infections due to being immunocompromised
  • Pregnancy complications
Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus may eventually lead to loss of vision
Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus may eventually lead to loss of vision


The management of type 1 Diabetes Mellitus primarily revolves around the exogenous addition of insulin into the body. Generally, the goal is to maintain blood glucose level to as normal as possible in order to avoid the abovementioned complications. Different kinds of insulin are as follows:

  • Using rapid acting insulin analogue at the start of a meal
  • Injection of a short acting insulin 15 to 30 minutes before a meal
  • Intermediate or long acting insulin such as isophane or zinc insulin to control glucose levels in between meals
  • Long acting insulin once daily

Other lifestyle modifications are also beneficial such as the following:

  • Controlling carbohydrate intake
  • Regular blood sugar monitoring
  • Regular exercise and healthy eating
  • Cessation of smoking

Understanding Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus can help when taking First Aid Classes.

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, formerly known as insulin dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes, is a common metabolic disorder that has the primary characteristic of having an elevated blood glucose level or hyperglycemia.


Wikipedia – Type 1 Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms, and Management

Medscape – Type 1 Diabetes: Overview of Diagnosis and Treatment

Mayo Clinic – Type 1 Diabetes: Understanding the Condition and Its Management

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