Diabetes Mellitus; Definition, Quick Facts, Symptoms & Types

Types of Diabetes

There are two major forms of diabetes. They are referred to as Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

In the past, Type 1 diabetes was termed Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or juvenile onset diabetes( this latter term came about because Type 1 diabetes is more prevalent in children).

Type 2 diabetes is more prevalent in adults and is defined (formerly) as Insulin-independent diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is defined medically as an autoimmune disease that affects blood sugar regulation. The affected individual’s immune system makes antibodies that destroy the insulin-producing islet beta cells in the pancreas.

The resultant effect is that the pancreas fails in its responsibility to make insulin. The consequence is grave. Without insulin, blood sugar levels skyrocket and cannot be delivered to the muscles and brain that require such supply.

In the long run, high blood sugar often precipitates a number of complications including kidney, nerve, and eye damage, and cardiovascular diseases.

At its most basic, Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. What this means is that treatment regimens often involve replacing the damaged pancreas or promoting regeneration or a proper functioning of the pancreas.

Individuals living with type 1 diabetes have an impaired ability to produce the insulin their bodies need. Therefore they must receive doses of insulin. These doses of insulin, which must match the demands of their diet, work in keeping blood sugar in a healthy/optimum range.

Signs and Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

The early signs of Type 1 diabetes include the following:

  1. Weight loss.
  2. Continual thirst.
  3. Excessive urination.
  4. An unusual odor from urine produced.
  5. Stomach pain.
  6. Diarrhea.
  7. The occurrence of urinary tract infection.
  8. Noticeable hair loss among other tell-tale signs.

Causes of Type 1 Diabetes

Foundationally, Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, where the autoimmune destruction of the pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin occurs. The exact causes of this situation arising is still being investigated.

However, scientists can point to a number of triggers that predispose individuals toward developing the disease. These triggers include:

  • The role of genetics including family history and the prenatal environment of the mother are veritable factors that can put an individual at risk for developing type 1 diabetes.
  • Individuals who have experienced exposure to chemicals. The most notable being the ones called endocrine disruptors, commonly found in plastics.
  • The role of viral infections serving as triggers in the autoimmune process.
  • Infants who are introduced either too early or late to certain kinds of foods. These foods have been found to trigger type 1 diabetes in research studies.
    As an example, introducing fruit before 5 months of age or waiting until later than 7 months to introduce grains such as oats and rice increases the risk of diabetes. Breastfeeding however, mitigates these risks to large extents.