Everything You Need to Know About Type 1 Diabetes

What Is Type 1 Diabetes?

What Is Type 1 Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is an umbrella term for a lot of different types of diseases that affect the pancreas. Most assume there are just two types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but there are actually over five types of diabetes which can make it confusing at times to understand what the term means.

The word diabetes comes from the Greek origin “to pass through,” and mellitus means “honey-sweet.” Physicians named it this because of the sugar that was being passed through into the urine of patients with diabetes.

What Is Type 1 Diabetes Exactly?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Type 1 diabetes is not curable or manageable by only diet and exercise (although diet and exercise can have a positive effect).

In every case, the person diagnosed must take insulin in the delivery method of their choice whether it be through needles or an insulin pump is up to lifestyle, resources, and personal preference.

Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes

The main difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is that type 1 is an autoimmune disease, and type 2 is a metabolic disorder. They are different diseases, and the only thing they have in common is the fact that they both affect the pancreas.

The Management of Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes

Management for the two types of diabetes is also completely different.


Type 1 diabetes has a very fast onset, whereas type 2 diabetes tends to develop over a longer period of time. More often than not, type 1 diabetes will require hospitalization and will require intensive coaching on learning how to manage the disease.

When diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the patient will need to go on insulin right away to bring their blood sugar to a healthy level. Type 2 diabetes doesn’t usually require hospitalization and the patient diagnosed will go on pills before possibly having to go on insulin as well. It can be managed with proper nutrition and exercise, whereas those things can help a type 1 diabetes, but they will always be dependent on insulin.

The Development and Treatment of Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. There is no known reason why this happens, but speculations believe a virus can trigger it. Once the onset of type 1 diabetes has begun, there is no way to stop it. A person diagnosed with type 1 diabetes will have to take insulin for the rest of there life because there is no way to stop or reverse the destruction of their beta cells.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance (inability to utilize insulin properly so that carbohydrates can be metabolized). We need insulin to be working at its optimal level to metabolize carbs properly; when our bodies are unable to do so, blood glucose levels start to rise and eventually there will be a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

Fortunately, there are ways to decrease insulin resistance and increase insulin sensitivity. Diet and exercise play a huge role in the management of type 2 diabetes and can allow a person afflicted with the disorder to live freely and without having to take medication. There are plenty of resources and programs available to help people with type 2 diabetes increase insulin sensitivity.

What Are the Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes?

Two of the most classic type 1 diabetes symptoms are extreme thirst and frequent urination.

As somebody who has type 1 diabetes myself, I’d like to emphasize the word frequent. Leading up to my diagnosis I was urinating almost 20 times a day and drinking water constantly.

Every case varies slightly, but those are the two biggest giveaways of type 1 diabetes. Some other symptoms may include increased appetite, weight loss, fruity smelling breath, dry mouth, and fatigue.

What Causes Type 1 Diabetes?

There are no proven causes of type 1 diabetes. However, there are many speculations. Once a patient is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, there is no way to get rid of it, and there is also no way of preventing it from happening.

Unfortunately, the stereotype for a person living with type 1 diabetes is that they caused it by an unhealthy lifestyle; this couldn’t be farther from the truth. There are many hypotheses surrounding the onset of type 1 diabetes. Here are the most popular ones:

A Virus

There are speculations that specific viruses could be the cause of type 1 diabetes. It is thought that certain viruses can play a part in unmasking autoimmunity in the body and confusing the immune system on which are the bad and good cells that need to be destroyed. The fancy, scientific term for this confusion is called molecular mimicry.

Another factor to consider when attributing the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes to a virus is the specific timing of the infection. The body needs to be the perfect host, with the perfect cells present that allow autoimmunity to occur.

There is also speculation that some anti-viral immunizations can trigger the onset of type 1 diabetes, and there have been cases of people who were diagnosed closely after getting specific immunizations.

Next page: The potential causes of type 1 diabetes, how type 1 diabetes is diagnosed and treated, and more “what is type 1 diabetes?” education. 

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Abigail DavidAbigail David

Abby is a 24-year-old Vancouver native currently living in Toronto, Canada. Over the past 7 years of having diabetes, she has learned a lot about how to harmoniously coexist (for the most part) with type 1 diabetes. She knows that her blood sugar will never be perfect all the time, but knowing that I have the ability to keep it within her comfortable range, and still live a fulfilling, non-restrictive life, is empowering to Abby.

Apr 17, 2019
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