What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose (say: gloo-kose), a sugar that is the body's main source of fuel. Just as an iPod needs a battery, your body needs glucose to keep running. Here's how it should work.
- You eat.
- Glucose from the food gets into your bloodstream.
- Your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin (say: in-suh-lin).
- Insulin helps the glucose get into the body's cells.
- Your body gets the energy it needs.
The pancreas is a long, flat gland in your belly that helps your body digest food. It also makes insulin. Insulin is kind of like a key that opens the doors to the cells of the body. It lets the glucose in. Then the glucose can move out of the blood and into the cells.
But if someone has diabetes, the body either can't make insulin or the insulin doesn't work in the body like it should. The glucose can't get into the cells normally, so the blood sugar level gets too high. Lots of sugar in the blood makes people sick if they don't get treatment.
What is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes may also be known by a variety of other names, including:
- insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM)
- juvenile diabetes
- brittle diabetes
- sugar diabetes
There are two forms of type 1 diabetes:
- idiopathic type 1 - refers to rare forms of the disease with no known cause.
- immune-mediated diabetes - an autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system destroys, or attempts to destroy, the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
Immune-mediated diabetes is the most common form of type 1 diabetes and is generally referred to as type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
The two major types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2.
In type 1 diabetes (which used to be called insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes), the pancreas can't make insulin. The body can still get glucose from food but the glucose can't get into the cells where it's needed. Glucose stays in the blood, which makes the blood sugar level very high and causes health problems.
To fix the problem, someone with type 1 diabetes needs to take insulin through regular shots or an insulin pump.
Type 2 diabetes is different from type 1 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas still makes insulin, but the insulin doesn't work in the body like it should and blood sugar levels get too high.
No one knows for sure what causes type 1 diabetes, but scientists think it has something to do with genes. Genes are like instructions for how the body should look and work that are passed on by parents to their kids. But just getting the genes for diabetes isn't usually enough. Something else has to happen — like getting a viral infection — for a person to develop type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes can't be prevented. Doctors can't even tell who will get it and who won't.
How Do People Know if They Have Type 1 Diabetes?
When people first have diabetes, they usually:
- pee a lot because the body tries to get rid of the extra blood sugar by passing it out of the body in the urine (pee)
- drink a lot to make up for all that peeing
- eat a lot because the body is hungry for the energy it can't get from sugar
- lose weight as the body starts to use fat and muscle for fuel because it can't use sugar normally
- feel tired a lot because the body can't use sugar for energy
Getting treatment for diabetes can stop these symptoms from happening. A doctor can do tests on a kid's blood to find out if he or she has diabetes.
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