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What Is Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is a life-long auto immune disease that usually occurs in childhood but can be diagnosed at any age.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by the immune system mistakenly turning on itself, destroying beta cells within the pancreas and removing the body's ability to produce insulin. Insulin allows the body to process sugar to create energy - without insulin, the body literally starves as it cannot process food. Without insulin, your body can't turn the glucose from the food you eat into energy for your muscles and other cells of the body. Instead, the glucose accumulates in the blood and is excreted into the urine through the kidneys.

Treating Type 1 Diabetes
The goal of type 1 diabetes management is to keep blood glucose levels as close to the normal range as possible. It may sound easy, but in reality, this can be difficult to achieve.

To stay alive, people with type 1 diabetes must have a constant supply of insulin through injections or an insulin pump and they test their blood sugar by pricking their fingers at least four times a day. People with type 1 diabetes must be constantly prepared for potential hypoglycaemic (low blood sugar) and hyperglycaemic (high blood sugar), which can both be life threatening.

Hypoglycaemia and Hyperglycaemia
Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) is a common condition for many people with type 1 diabetes. It can be caused by eating less than usual, more exercise than normal or too much insulin administered.

Hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) occurs when the body has too much food or glucose, or too little insulin. It can be caused by a kink in the insulin pump tubing, missing an insulin dose, eating more than usual, stress or less exercise than normal.

These low and high blood sugar level reactions show the constant balance that those with type 1 diabetes have to endure in their everyday life.

Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms

Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age. In type 1 diabetes, a person's pancreas produces little or no insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must inject insulin several times every day or have a constant supply of insulin through an insulin pump, just to stay alive.

Type 1 diabetes symptoms can include:

• extreme thirst
• constant hunger
• sudden weight loss
• frequent urination
• blurred vision
• nausea
• vomiting
• extreme tiredness
• infections


Type 1 Diabetes Complications

Type 1 diabetes related complications can include:

• eye disease, such as diabetic retinopathy
• nerve damage, such as diabetic neuropathy
• kidney disease, such as diabetic nephropathy
• heart disease and stroke, such as cardiovascular disease

Eye Disease
The early stage of diabetic retinopathy, known as "background" diabetic retinopathy, unfolds as the walls of the retina weaken from high blood sugar and high blood pressure, developing small, dot-like bulges, or "micro-aneurysms," which can leak fluid or blood into the surrounding tissue. In the second, more destructive stage, called proliferative diabetic retinopathy, new blood vessels form on the retina in response to the damage caused.

Nerve Damage
Diabetic neuropathy is the medical name given to progressive damage to the nervous system caused by type 1 diabetes. Diabetic neuropathy can lead to a loss of feeling in the hands and feet. Reduced circulation resulting from high blood glucose impairs normal wound healing in the extremities, so minor damage can linger and develop into permanent injury. At the same time, neuropathy can cause severe pain in limbs that otherwise have reduced normal sensation.

Kidney Disease
Diabetic kidney disease or diabetic nephropathy is a slow deterioration of the kidneys and kidney function which, in more severe cases, can eventually result in kidney failure, also known as end-stage renal disease, or ESRD.

Heart Disease and Stroke
Cardiovascular disease is a range of blood vessel system diseases that includes both stroke and heart attack. The two most common types of cardiovascular disease are coronary heart disease, caused by fatty deposits in the arteries that feed the heart, and hypertension, or high blood pressure.

Newly Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes

Why me?
If you've just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes you're probably thinking - why me?
In no way is type 1 diabetes your fault. There was nothing you could have done to prevent it.

What causes it?
A lot of research is being done to find out what causes type 1 Diabetes. While progress is being made there are unfortunately no clear answers as yet. Through research, we do know that:
• there is a genetic risk that pre-disposes people to develop type 1 diabetes
• something triggered your immune system to attack your insulin-producing cells
• your pancreas isn't working because of the damage inflicted by your immune system.

Your support team
At first, everything about type 1 diabetes can be confusing. The best way of looking after your diabetes is to draw on a team of health care professionals.

If possible, your team should include:
• an endocrinologist
• a diabetes educator
• a dietician

You might also want to get advice from:
• a psychologist
• an exercise physiologist

It is important that you find a team that you're comfortable with. Don't be afraid to ask questions - your team is there to help you and answer your questions.

Managing type 1 diabetes

Managing type 1 diabetes is all about balance. You'll manage factors that lower your blood glucose (like insulin and exercise) with those which raise blood glucose (like food and stress hormones).
When glucose levels swing too far in either direction it can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) or hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose). Over time these swings can damage the tiny blood vessels in your organs. This damage can lead to long term health complications like nerve damage, blindness, heart failure and kidney disease.

Telling people

Talking to other people about your diagnosis might be hard but it's important to build a support network.

• FRIENDS & FAMILY - Don't keep your diabetes a secret. Telling your friends and family about your diagnosis can help you move on and accept it. Be prepared for lots of questions! Being open will help others understand what type 1 diabetes is all about.

• SCHOOL/UNI - It is a good idea to meet with your teacher(s) to run through what type 1 diabetes means and what to do for areas like food, exercise, hypos and sick days.

• WORK - Whether you tell your employer or work colleagues about your diabetes is completely your decision. All your medical information is confidential unless you having type 1 diabetes has safety implications for others.

What about my dreams and plans for the future?

Diabetes does not have to stop you, your child or your loved one from living a full and active life. With the right diabetes care and management there is no reason why you can't become:

• a professional athlete like NRL star Brett Stewart
• a singer like Marcia Hines
• a politician like Senator Guy Barnett

All these accomplished celebrities and many more have type 1 Diabetes.