Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when insulin-producing beta cells within the pancreas are gradually destroyed and eventually fail to produce insulin.

Type 1 accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all diagnosed diabetes in the United States. While it is most often diagnosed in children and teens, it is not uncommon for adults to be diagnosed later in life. Type 1 diabetes diagnosed in adulthood may be a form of slowly-progressing diabetes called latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA), or type 1.5 diabetes.

Photo Credit: CDC


People with type 1 diabetes must have insulin injections to supplement the failing insulin production of their pancreas. Insulin is injected with a syringe or pen injector, or through an infusion device called an insulin pump. There are also adjunct, or companion, treatments for type 1 diabetes that may be prescribed along with insulin. The injectable hormone pramlintide (Symlin) is taken with mealtime insulin to help avoid after-meal blood sugar spikes. In clinical studies, metformin, an oral medication for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, has shown some promise as an adjunct therapy for type 1 diabetes as well, although this is considered an “off label” use of the drug. Good nutrition, particularly careful monitoring of carbohydrate intake, and regular physical activity are also important “treatments” for controlling type 1 diabetes and preventing long-term complications. Regular blood sugar testing can help you monitor how your treatment routine is working.


Symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually develop quickly over a short period. If not diagnosed and treated with insulin, a person with type 1 diabetes can lapse into diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), also known as a diabetic coma.  DKA is life-threatening, so it’s important to contact your healthcare provider immediately if you are experiencing symptoms.

Type 1 diabetes symptoms include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue, or a feeling of being “run down” and tired
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Tingling or burning pain in the feet, legs, hands, or other parts of the body
  • Irritability, depression
  • Frequent or recurring infections, such as urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and skin infections
  • Slow healing of cuts and bruises
Source: Center for Disease Control 2011