Type 1 diabetes occurs because the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas (beta cells) are damaged. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas makes little or no insulin, so sugar cannot get into the body's cells for use as energy. People with type 1 diabetes must use insulin injections to control their blood glucose. Type 1 is the most common form of diabetes in people who are under age 30, but it can occur at any age. Ten percent of people with diabetes are diagnosed with type 1.
Certain drugs may also help to control pain. These include anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, indomethacin, and many others. While some of these are sold over the counter, they can have side effects, most notably gastrointestinal bleeding. A newer anti-inflammatory, celecoxib (Celebrex), may have fewer gastrointestinal side effects.
Some research, however, suggests a more drastic dietary change. A 2017 literature review concluded that “whole-foods, plant-based diet—legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, with limited or no intake of refined foods and animal products—are highly beneficial for preventing and treating type 2 diabetes.” A 2018 study found that overweight people who switched to a vegan diet for 16 weeks showed improvements in insulin sensitivity compared to a control group.
^ Pignone M, Alberts MJ, Colwell JA, Cushman M, Inzucchi SE, Mukherjee D, Rosenson RS, Williams CD, Wilson PW, Kirkman MS (June 2010). "Aspirin for primary prevention of cardiovascular events in people with diabetes: a position statement of the American Diabetes Association, a scientific statement of the American Heart Association, and an expert consensus document of the American College of Cardiology Foundation". Diabetes Care. 33 (6): 1395–402. doi:10.2337/dc10-0555. PMC 2875463. PMID 20508233.
Scientists and researchers are skeptical about the possibility of a true cure for type 2 diabetes. Michael German, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, believes much of the success in a diabetes cure depends on an individual’s genetic makeup. And the Joslin Diabetes Center, the world’s largest diabetes research center and an affiliate institute of Harvard Medical School, claims that there is no cure for diabetes. Regardless, everyone can agree that an effective cure could put an end to the cycle of suffering for diabetes patients.
I was diagnosed as a Type I diabetic in October 1993. I was traveling at the time, and I felt lethargic, I was always thirsty, and I was having trouble concentrating. When I returned home, I went for a checkup, and the doctor confirmed my condition. From that day forward, I’ve been injecting myself with insulin every day. Before I switched to an insulin pump in 2011, I calculated that I had given myself about 30,000 needles. That’s a lot of jabbing.
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Joyce Lashof, then the dean of Berkeley’s School of Public Health, remembers that wellness was initially a tough sell at the school. Not much was known on campus about the earlier work of Travis and his fellow wellness advocates, but Lashof’s colleagues associated the term wellness with the “flakiness” of Mill Valley and surrounding Marin County. The NBC newsman Edwin Newman had televised an exposé of Marin County’s hedonistic lifestyle, which notoriously opened with a woman getting a peacock-feather massage from two nude men. The Berkeley Wellness Letter, however, managed to avoid such unseemly associations by publishing serious, evidence-based articles on health promotion, while debunking many of the holistic health fads of the day.
At present, the American Diabetes Association does not recommend general screening of the population for type 1 diabetes, though screening of high risk individuals, such as those with a first degree relative (sibling or parent) with type 1 diabetes should be encouraged. Type 1 diabetes tends to occur in young, lean individuals, usually before 30 years of age; however, older patients do present with this form of diabetes on occasion. This subgroup is referred to as latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA). LADA is a slow, progressive form of type 1 diabetes. Of all the people with diabetes, only approximately 10% have type 1 diabetes and the remaining 90% have type 2 diabetes.
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is common in people with type 1 and type 2 DM. Most cases are mild and are not considered medical emergencies. Effects can range from feelings of unease, sweating, trembling, and increased appetite in mild cases to more serious effects such as confusion, changes in behavior such as aggressiveness, seizures, unconsciousness, and (rarely) permanent brain damage or death in severe cases. Moderately low blood sugar may easily be mistaken for drunkenness; rapid breathing and sweating, cold, pale skin are characteristic of low blood sugar but not definitive. Mild to moderate cases are self-treated by eating or drinking something high in sugar. Severe cases can lead to unconsciousness and must be treated with intravenous glucose or injections with glucagon.
Efforts to cure or stop type 1 diabetes are still in the early stages, and these approaches will also not be suitable for people that have already lost their insulin-producing cells. A solution could be the creation of an “artificial pancreas” — a fully automated system that can measure glucose levels and inject the right amount of insulin into the bloodstream, just like a healthy pancreas would.
The primary complications of diabetes due to damage in small blood vessels include damage to the eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Damage to the eyes, known as diabetic retinopathy, is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina of the eye, and can result in gradual vision loss and eventual blindness. Diabetes also increases the risk of having glaucoma, cataracts, and other eye problems. It is recommended that diabetics visit an eye doctor once a year. Damage to the kidneys, known as diabetic nephropathy, can lead to tissue scarring, urine protein loss, and eventually chronic kidney disease, sometimes requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation. Damage to the nerves of the body, known as diabetic neuropathy, is the most common complication of diabetes. The symptoms can include numbness, tingling, pain, and altered pain sensation, which can lead to damage to the skin. Diabetes-related foot problems (such as diabetic foot ulcers) may occur, and can be difficult to treat, occasionally requiring amputation. Additionally, proximal diabetic neuropathy causes painful muscle atrophy and weakness.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.