These days, many people know about diabetes, but 35 years ago the knowledge was not as wide spread. Read on to learn about the signs of Type 1 diabetes that my parents weren’t aware of, so you can catch the disease earlier than they did.
What Is Type 1 Diabetes, Anyway?
Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease. It usually affects children, but there have been some diagnoses made of people in their late teens and early twenties. Sometimes children are born with it.
Researchers aren’t sure why, but sometimes your body’s immune cells begin to attack your own cells. They suddenly decide that the cells inside your body don’t belong there.
When the body attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, the pancreas can no longer produce insulin. This lack of insulin wreaks havoc on the body.
Signs of Type 1 Diabetes
One of the first signs of type 1 diabetes is excessive hunger. Think of insulin as the key that unlocks the body’s cells for glucose to get inside. Once glucose is inside the cells, the body can use it for fuel.
If there is no insulin, the glucose hangs out in the blood stream (this is high blood sugar). The body thinks there is no fuel, so your brain makes you feel hunger so you will eat more. This, in turn, raises the blood glucose levels even more.
The higher blood glucose levels signal the body to get rid of the extra glucose, which causes the second sign: excessive urination.
Any time you have a high concentration of molecules in your blood (glucose, sodium, other minerals and substances), your body will try to balance things out through urination.
This leads us to one of the other FIRST signs of type 1 diabetes, excessive thirst. Because you have excess stuff in your blood stream, and you’re urinating all the time, you will feel dehydrated and become thirsty.
This is another one of the body’s ways of balancing things. At this point it is trying to dilute the blood because it’s too concentrated.
Nausea and Vomiting
If you haven’t recognized the previous signs of type 1 diabetes, chances are by now you will be dehydrated. This causes nausea and vomiting, which will cause you to feel even more dehydrated.
It really is a vicious circle. Nausea, vomiting, dehydration, thirst, urination, hunger, nausea, vomiting…
Unexpected Weight Loss
Due to the fact that you’re vomiting and dehydrated, and that your body is not actually getting any fuel, you may lose weight unexpectedly. I was 6 years old at my diagnosis and I lost about 15 lbs…in one week.
This rapid weight loss can lead to the very dangerous next sign.
When your body doesn’t get fuel in the form of glucose (from carbohydrates), it will start burning your body fat for fuel. When this happens, the by-products from the fat breakdown (called Ketones) can cause your blood to become acidic.
If this occurs, you need IV fluids and intervention by a medical team. They can give you medications directly into your blood stream in order to balance the pH level of your blood.
These fluids may include saline solution, insulin, sodium bicarbonate, and/or potassium.
Other Signs of Type 1 Diabetes
Some other signs of type 1 diabetes are irritability, extreme fatigue, and blurred vision. Any time your child shows any of these signs of diabetes, you should take him or her to the doctor.
It’s better to be safe than sorry. These signs will occur over a matter of days to one week. They come on very rapidly, so any time you notice your child has any of these symptoms PLUS weight loss, the chances are the doctors will find diabetes.
What Can You Do?
There truly is no way to prevent Type 1 diabetes. The only thing you can do is watch for the signs and talk to your child’s pediatrician.
Type 2 Diabetes
More and more children are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which used to be considered “adult-onset diabetes.” If you’re looking for the signs and symptoms for type 2 diabetes, check out my other diabetes blogs HERE.
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