Following are some of the major signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes. If you experience the following symptoms, ask your doctor about the possibility that you have diabetes:
1 Frequent urination: You experience frequent urination because your kidneys can't return all the glucose to your bloodstream when your blood glucose level is greater than 180 mg/dl (10 mmol/L). (See Chapter 7 for all the details on blood glucose level testing.) The large amount of glucose in your urine makes the urine very concentrated. As a result, your body draws water out of your blood and into the urine to reduce that high concentration of glucose. This water and glucose fill up the bladder repeatedly.
1 Increase in thirst: Your thirst increases as you experience frequent urination, because you lose so much water in the urine that your body begins to dehydrate.
1 Weight loss: You lose weight as your body loses glucose in the urine and your body breaks down muscle and fat looking for energy.
1 Increase in hunger: Your body has plenty of extra glucose in the blood, but your cells become malnourished because you lack insulin to allow the glucose to enter your cells. As a result, you become increasingly hungry. Your body goes through "hunger in the midst of plenty."
1 Weakness: You feel weak because your muscle cells and other tissues do not get the energy that they require from glucose.
Type 1 diabetes used to be called juvenile diabetes because it occurs most frequently in children. However, so many cases are found in adults that doctors don't use the term juvenile any more. Some children are diagnosed early in life, and other children have a more severe onset of the disease as they get a little older.
With children over age ten, the early signs and symptoms of diabetes may have been missed by parents, counselors, or teachers. These kids have a great deal of fat breakdown in their bodies to provide energy, and this fat breakdown creates other problems. Ketone bodies, products of the breakdown of fats, begin to accumulate in the blood and spill into the urine. Ketone bodies are acidic and lead to nausea, abdominal pain, and sometimes vomiting.
At the same time as fat is breaking down, the child's blood glucose rises higher. Dangerous levels as high as 400 to 600 mg/dl (22.2 to 33.3 mmol/L) are not uncommon, but levels as low as 300 (16.6 mmol/L), not quite as dangerous are possible. The child's blood is like thick maple syrup and doesn't circulate as freely as normal. The large amount of water leaving the body with the glucose depletes important substances such as sodium and potassium. The vomiting causes the child to lose more fluids and body substances. All these abnormalities cause the child to become very drowsy and possibly lose consciousness. This situation is called diabetic ketoacidosis, and if it isn't identified and corrected quickly, the child can die. (See Chapter 4 for more details on the symptoms, causes, and treatments of ketoacidosis.)
A few special circumstances affect the symptoms that you may see in persons with type 1 diabetes. Remember the following factors:
^ The "honeymoon" period is a time after the diagnosis of diabetes when the person's insulin needs decline for one to six months and the disease seems to get milder. The honeymoon period is longer when a child is older at the time of diagnosis, but the apparent diminishing of the disease is always temporary.
^ Males and females get type 1 diabetes to an equal degree.
^ Warm summer months are associated with a decrease in the occurrence of diabetes compared to the winter months, particularly in older children over ten. The probable reason for this occurrence is that a virus is involved in bringing on diabetes (which I discuss in the next section), and viruses spread much more when children are learning and playing together inside in the winter.
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All you need is a proper diet of fresh fruits and vegetables and get plenty of exercise and you'll be fine. Ever heard those words from your doctor? If that's all heshe recommends then you're missing out an important ingredient for health that he's not telling you. Fact is that you can adhere to the strictest diet, watch everything you eat and get the exercise of amarathon runner and still come down with diabetic complications. Diet, exercise and standard drug treatments simply aren't enough to help keep your diabetes under control.