Type 1 diabetes, which affects over one million people in America alone, is an autoimmune disease in which the body's own immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas which are responsible for the production of insulin and production either ceases or is significantly reduced. Just what triggers this autoimmune response is not known, although it is thought that it may well often be triggered by a viral infection. There are also a number of theories that hold that it might be caused by the production of antibodies in response to excessive levels of vitamin D, the protein in cow's milk or certain drugs, including some antibiotics. As things stand, however, the real cause of type 1 diabetes remains a mystery.
Whatever the cause, the failure of the body to produce insulin lead to a build-up of glucose in the blood and it is this which produces the wide range of type 1 diabetes symptoms.
The first sign of type 1 diabetes is often an inability to regulate water which will be seen as excessive thirst and urination. At the same time, because the body cannot take up the glucose that it needs to provide it with energy, the brain also triggers the need to eat and sufferers feel very hungry. Further symptoms caused directly by this lack of energy include feeling of tiredness, increasing nausea and blurred vision.
Sufferers should also be on the lookout for muscle cramps, which are often caused by an electrolyte imbalance and numbness or tingling in both the feet and hands.
It is also fairly common to experience a loss of weight which in part results of the body using its fat reserves to replace its lost source of glucose energy, but which is principally the result of the body losing of water. As it is uncommon for people with an increased appetite to begin to lose weight this is often an indication of the onset of type 1 diabetes.
Also, while bedwetting is common in young children, a marked increase in bedwetting can also be a sign of type 1 diabetes.
For most sufferers the onset of type 1 type diabetes is fairly gradual and by the time the symptoms are severe enough to warrant a visit to the doctor he will be able to trace the onset of the disease back several weeks or even months. It is possible however for severe symptoms to appear quite suddenly, requiring admission to a hospital emergency room. In this case, what starts out as nausea, vomiting and severe stomach pains can quickly lead to breathing difficulties, with the sufferer lapsing into a coma and dying without rapid treatment.
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