What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Ever feel tired after a meal? It could be the boring lessons you have after having lunch with your friends, or it could also be diabetes.

Always hungry? Maybe you just like food, or maybe, you have diabetes.

Fun fact: Singapore takes the cake in having the highest prevalence of childhood myopia in seven to nine year olds, in the world. Do you have blurry vision? You might be myopic, or even diabetic. 1

Are you a young child in India? Statistically speaking, you could have diabetes too.2

diabetes1(Sweetly Reversing Diabetes, 2015)2


You see, these common symptoms of diabetes are expressed by many people in our everyday lives. Are they diabetic? Probably not; we’re bloggers, not doctors. Speaking of occupations, if you’re a skilled and stealthy assassin, you already meet the requirements of being the diabetes mellitus disease itself. (Yup, that’s the full name)

Diabetes is notorious for being a silent killer, because so many of its manifestations are subtle, seemingly harmless and are often swept under the carpet. Things like frequent urination, or tingling hands or feet are easily brushed aside as just one of those annoying things in life that people can just tolerate or grumble about.

But, why do these complications arise? How does it happen, what did people do about it and are these anti-diabetic efforts enough? These are the questions that this blog seeks to answer, and this post will do a simple overview of the matter.

First things first, what is the difference between a person without diabetes, and a person with type 1 or type 2 diabetes?

IN A HEALTHY PERSON WITHOUT DIABETES

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When you eat food that contains carbohydrates, your body gets to work! Food contains the energy your body wants and needs, in order for you to continue functioning as a living thing. Here, you see an eager human eating up a lollipop, which travels from his mouth to the small intestines, where food gets to be broken down by many other enzymes. Think of your digestive system as a cave, where enzymes act like miners trying to mine out desired diamonds (that is, the energy in your food)

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These diamonds, the packets of energy are found in the glucose molecules that were hidden within the food particles. They travel to your bloodstream, in order to be taken up by cells for them to use the energy.

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Red blood cells carry these diamonds, in the form of glucose molecules, to different parts of your body! Well, firstly, they visit the pancreas.

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At the pancreas, there are certain types of cells called beta cells. These cells sense the high levels of glucose molecules in the bloodstream, and in return, churns out insulin molecules.

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These insulin molecules are important. Without them, cells in your body that needs energy, say for example your muscle cells, won’t be able to get the energy from the glucose molecules. These cells can only obtain energy when their insulin receptors open other cellular gates for the entry of glucose molecules. Only then, can the glucose molecules be absorbed by the cells, from the bloodstream.

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Only then, can glucose levels in the bloodstream be normal and allow for the functioning of a regular, healthy human being.

However, in the case of type 1 diabetes, this isn’t necessarily the case. Beta cells in the pancreas stop producing insulin molecules. That is because, certain white blood cells (the soldiers in your immune system that fight against nasty infections) attack the beta cells. This means less insulin molecules are available to signal the various cells in your body that makes up vital organs (like your muscles) to take up glucose molecules. This leaves behind many glucose molecules in the bloodstream, as a result of your efficient digestive system, and very little glucose molecules in the cells that need it most.

This can help explain many symptoms of diabetes, as listed below.

  • Frequent urination – When glucose levels in your bloodstream remain high, even long after you’ve had your meals, you would tend to urinate more frequently. This is due to how your rising glucose levels in the bloodstream will also increase the workload of your kidneys. Your kidneys are bean-shaped organs responsible for creating urine, from waste or excessive products in your body (so as to get rid of these said waste products). When too much glucose molecules is dumped into this urine, and when there still isn’t enough insulin molecules, the kidneys can’t abandon their jobs to throw out the excessive glucose molecules back into the bloodstream. These hardworking organs still must remove the excess glucose by diluting it with fluids, hence, they fill up your bladder and cause you to urinate frequently with heavy volumes, especially when you’re right about to sleep.
  • Excessive thirst – Frequent urination causes your body to frequently lose bodily fluids too, dehydrating your body. As a natural response to dehydration, you will encounter frequent urges to drink more fluids than you normally would, in order to stay hydrated.
  • Unexplained weight loss – When body cells fail to continue taking up glucose molecules and making use of the stored energy, they start to look for other less-explored options. These include resorts to burn body fat and muscle for energy, which results in one’s weight loss. This symptom is more common among patients with Type 1 diabetes, since insulin cannot be produced at all. In type 2 diabetes, some insulin can still be produced. In fact, type 2 diabetes is a little bit more tricky, because it is characterized by insulin resistance in your body cells, and not really the absence of insulin molecules themselves.
  • Blurred vision – High glucose levels in the blood can damage the lenses of the eyes. Over time, these harmful effects can accumulate and manifest as weakening vision, or even blindness. These effects may also include double vision, cloudy vision, cataracts, shadows, bleeding and vision changes.

In the next post, we’ll be looking at the most common treatments we already use in today’s context to treat type 1 diabetes, what the drawbacks are and how to cope with type 1 diabetes.

References

  1. Health Promotion Board. 2015. Myopia – a World #1 we don’t want for our kids. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/health-article/188. [Accessed 13 November 15]
  2. Sweetly Reversing Diabetes. 2015. Are you Killing yourself Silently?. [ONLINE] Available at:https://sweetlyreversingdiabetes.wordpress.com/tag/symptoms-of-diabetes-in-women/. [Accessed 13 November 15]
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3 thoughts on “What is Type 1 Diabetes?

  1. It was a joy reading your blog.. Despite being a long post, reading the post felt refreshing and entertaining. Much of the information was easy to understand with all of the examples given. Processes can be difficult to follow but i felt that the gifs helped me to visualise what was going on so trying to understand what caused type 1 diabetes was fun and engaging instead of being a chore.
    All in all I found your blog well organised, fun and interesting to read

    Like

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