What Is Immune-Mediated Diabetes?
Immune-mediated diabetes (formerly called insulin-dependent diabetes) is a disease that affects the way your body uses food. Immune-mediated diabetes is also called type 1 diabetes.
In type 1 diabetes your body destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, usually leading to a total failure to produce insulin. It typically starts in children or young adults who are slim, but can start at any age.
Without insulin, your body cannot control blood levels of sugar. And without insulin, you would die. So people with type 1 diabetes give themselves at least one shot of insulin every day.
An estimated 500,000 to 1 million people Americans have this type of diabetes today.
Why Insulin Shots?
You must inject insulin under the skin -- in the fat -- for it to work. You cannot take insulin in a pill. The juices in your stomach would destroy the insulin before it could work. Scientists are looking for new ways to give insulin. Today there are many devices for insulin delivery.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes often appears suddenly. Signs and symptoms are:
- High levels of sugar in the blood.
- High levels of sugar in the urine.
- Frequent urination (and/or bed-wetting in children).
- Extreme hunger.
- Extreme thirst.
- Extreme weight loss.
- Weakness and tiredness.
- Feeling edgy and having mood changes.
- Feeling sick to your stomach and vomiting.
We do not know exactly what causes diabetes. We do know that people inherit a tendency to get diabetes. But not all people who have this tendency will get the disease. Other things such as illnesses must also come into play for diabetes to begin.
Diabetes is not like a cold. Your friends and family cannot catch it from you.
What Does Living With Diabetes Mean?
People with type 1 diabetes can live happy, healthy lives. The key is to follow your diabetes treatment plan. The goal of this plan is to keep your blood-sugar level as close to normal as possible (good blood-sugar control). Your treatment plan will probably include:
- Insulin, which lowers blood sugar. Your health care practitioner will prescribe how much and when to take insulin and what kinds.
- Food, which raises blood sugar. Most people with type 1 diabetes have a meal plan. A registered dietician makes a plan for you. It tells you much food you can eat and when to eat it. Most people have three meals and at least two snacks every day. Your meal plan can have foods you enjoy.
- Exercise, which lowers blood sugar. Like insulin, exercise also helps your body to use blood sugar. So exercise will probably be prescribed for you. Your health care practitioner can help you fit exercise safely into your daily routine.
- Blood and urine testing. Testing your blood lets you know if your blood-sugar level is high, low, or near normal. The tests are simple. You prick your finger to get a drop of blood. A nurse-educator can teach you how to do this test and use the test results.
Problems You May Have
Type 1 diabetes can cause problems that you should be prepared for. There are three key problems:
- Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar; sometimes called an insulin reaction. This occurs when your blood sugar drops too low. You correct this problem by eating some sugar (such as 3 glucose tablets, 6 ounces of regular soda, or 5 or 6 Lifesavers). Your health care practitioner will teach you the signs of hypoglycemia and show you how to treat it.
- Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar. This occurs when your blood sugar is too high. It can be a sign that diabetes is not well controlled. Your health care practitioner will explain the signs and symptoms and the best way to treat hyperglycemia.
- Ketoacidosis, or diabetic coma. This is very serious. Discuss its signs with your health care practitioner.