What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a lifelong autoimmune disease that is currently not preventable or curable. While researchers don’t know the exact causes of T1D, factors and triggers that may increase risk include having a family member with T1D or experiencing certain viral infections or environmental changes. Individuals with T1D are insulin-dependent for life.    

Signs & Symptoms

Signs & symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:

If you experience any of these symptoms, ask your doctor for a blood sugar or urine test.

Untreated type 1 diabetes can be life-threatening. Seek emergency medical care if you are experiencing:

A potentially fatal consequence for people with type 1 diabetes who aren’t on insulin therapy is diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA occurs when there is an overload of glucose in the bloodstream because there is no regulating insulin.

Stages

T1D develops in three stages among children and adults – and often by the time symptoms start showing, a person is already in the final stage, where the body is no longer able to make enough insulin, blood sugar is high, and insulin is required.

Stage 1 and 2

Stage 3

Diagnosis

A T1D diagnosis can happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Your doctor may perform any of the following tests to detect T1D:

If your doctor thinks you have T1D, your blood may also be tested for autoantibodies. If a person has two or more persistent autoantibodies, they are considered at high risk for developing type 1 diabetes. These substances indicate your body is attacking itself and often indicate a T1D diagnosis.

Who is at risk?

T1D impacts people of all ages – children, adolescents and adults. If you have a parent, child or sibling with T1D, you have a 15x increased risk of developing the condition.

While having a family history of T1D is the highest risk factor for developing the disease, more than 80 percent of people diagnosed with T1D have no family history at all.