Diabetes is a medical condition that affects how our bodies manage the sugar, or glucose, in our blood. There are different types of diabetes, and one of them is called Type 1 Diabetes. This type of diabetes happens when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. Understanding Type 1 Diabetes is important because it requires special care and management to stay healthy.

What Is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 Diabetes is a chronic condition where the body’s immune system targets and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This results in a lack of insulin, essential for getting glucose from the bloodstream into the cells for energy use.
Without enough insulin, glucose builds up in the blood, causing high blood sugar levels. People with Type 1 Diabetes need to take insulin injections or use an insulin pump to manage their blood sugar levels and stay healthy. It’s usually diagnosed in childhood or early adulthood, and its exact cause is still being studied.

How Does Type 1 Diabetes Differ From Other Types of Diabetes?

Type 1 Diabetes is different from other types of diabetes, such as Type 2 Diabetes and gestational diabetes, in several ways. The main distinction lies in the underlying causes and how the body responds.

Onset and Occurrence

  • Type 1 Diabetes – This is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It can develop at any age and is usually diagnosed in childhood or young adulthood.
  • Type 2 Diabetes – This is a metabolic disorder in which the body becomes resistant to insulin or does not produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels. It is often associated with factors like obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and genetic predisposition.
  • Gestational Diabetes – This type of diabetes develops specifically during pregnancy and is not present before conception. It typically occurs around the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy.


  • Type 1 Diabetes – It is primarily caused by an autoimmune response that targets and damages insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
  • Type 2 Diabetes – It is influenced by a combination of genetic factors, lifestyle factors (such as diet, physical activity, and obesity), and insulin resistance.
  • Gestational Diabetes – The exact cause is not fully understood, but hormonal changes during pregnancy can lead to insulin resistance, where the body’s cells do not respond effectively to insulin. This results in elevated blood sugar levels.

Long-Term Effects

  • Type 1 Diabetes – It requires lifelong insulin therapy and management. If not properly managed, it can lead to complications affecting the heart, kidneys, eyes, nerves, and other organs.
  • Type 2 Diabetes – If left unmanaged, it can lead to various complications similar to those of type 1 diabetes, including cardiovascular disease, kidney problems, nerve damage, and eye issues.
  • Gestational Diabetes – Blood sugar levels usually return to normal after childbirth. However, women who have had gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.


  • Type 1 Diabetes – It requires insulin therapy for life, along with careful monitoring of blood sugar levels, diet, and physical activity.
  • Type 2 Diabetes – Treatment may involve lifestyle changes (diet and exercise), oral medications, and in some cases, insulin therapy.
  • Gestational Diabetes – It is typically managed through dietary changes, regular physical activity, and, in some cases, insulin therapy to control blood sugar levels during pregnancy.

What Are the Causes of Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the pancreas’s insulin-producing cells (beta cells). The exact causes of type 1 diabetes are not fully understood, but genetic and environmental factors play a role. Here are some key factors that are believed to contribute to the development of type 1 diabetes:

Genetic Predisposition

Some people have genes that make them more likely to get type 1 diabetes. Genes are like instructions in our bodies, and certain genes can increase the chance of developing this disease.

Autoimmune Response

Our immune system protects us from harmful things like germs. But in type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the parts in our body that make insulin, which is important for controlling sugar in our blood.

Environmental Triggers

Sometimes, things in our environment, like viruses, can cause our immune system to act in a way that harms our insulin-making parts. This can happen if a person already has the genes that make them more prone to type 1 diabetes.

What Are the Risk Factors Associated With Type 1 Diabetes?

When it comes to health, our genes, environment, and lifestyle all play a role. Type 1 diabetes is no exception.

Family History

If someone in your family has type 1 diabetes, your risk is a bit higher. It’s like having a higher chance of getting something because it runs in your family.


Certain genes can make you more likely to get type 1 diabetes. Genes are like instructions in your body, and some instructions can increase the chance of having this disease.


Type 1 diabetes often starts in younger people, usually before they’re adults. So, if you’re a kid or a teenager, you might have a higher risk.


Where you live might affect your risk. Some places have more cases of type 1 diabetes. Scientists aren’t entirely sure why this happens.

Viral Infections

Certain viruses, like the ones that cause colds or stomach bugs, could play a role in increasing the risk of type 1 diabetes, especially if you’re already at risk because of your genes.

Early Diet

What you eat as a baby might matter. Introducing solid foods too early or delaying them might impact your risk. But don’t worry, it’s not the only thing that matters.


Being too clean might not be a good thing when it comes to your immune system. If you’re not exposed to enough germs when you’re young, it could raise your risk.

Other Autoimmune Conditions

If you or your family members have other health problems where your immune system attacks your own body, like celiac disease or thyroid issues, your risk for type 1 diabetes might be a bit higher.

What Are the Signs of Type 1 Diabetes in Children?

Here’s your guide to the potential signs of type 1 diabetes in children. From unusual thirst to shifts in mood and energy levels, these signs offer insights into a condition that requires attention and care. Below is a list of the common indicators that parents and caregivers should be aware of.

Thirst and Urination

If your child suddenly seems much thirstier than usual and is going to the bathroom more often, it could be a sign. Imagine feeling like you’re always thirsty and need to use the bathroom a lot.

Weight Loss

If your child is losing weight even though they’re eating normally or more than usual, this might be a red flag. It’s like their body is getting skinnier even though they’re eating.

Extreme Hunger

Kids with type 1 diabetes might feel very hungry all the time, even after they’ve eaten. It’s like having a constant craving for food.


If your child is unusually tired or lacks energy, it could be related to diabetes. They might not want to play or do things they usually enjoy.


Diabetes can sometimes make kids feel more cranky or irritable than usual. They might get upset easily or seem more emotional.

Blurry Vision

If your child’s vision suddenly becomes blurry, it might be linked to diabetes. It’s like looking through a foggy window.

Yeast Infections

Girls might get yeast infections more often, and kids might have other skin infections. These can be linked to diabetes because of changes in the body’s chemistry.

Fruity Breath

If your child’s breath smells fruity or sweet, it could be a sign of diabetes. This happens when the body can’t use sugar for energy and starts using fat instead.


If a child who was potty-trained starts wetting the bed again, it could be a sign of diabetes. They might be drinking a lot and needing to urinate more.

What Are the Signs of Type 1 Diabetes in Adults?

Regarding type 1 diabetes in adults, recognising these signals can make a significant difference. This overview simplifies the signs that adults should be mindful of—hints that their bodies might be grappling with diabetes.

Increased Thirst and Urination

If you find yourself feeling extremely thirsty all the time and needing to use the bathroom more often than usual, it could be a sign of diabetes. It’s like your body is asking for more water and then getting rid of it quickly.

Weight Loss

If you’re losing weight without trying and you haven’t changed your diet or exercise routine, it might be a sign of diabetes. Your body might be unable to use the energy from your food.

Constant Hunger

If you’re feeling hungry even after eating, it could be related to diabetes. Your body might not be getting enough energy from the food you consume.


If you’re feeling unusually tired and lacking energy, it might be because your body isn’t processing sugar properly. It’s like running low on fuel.

Blurry Vision

If your vision suddenly becomes blurry, it might be linked to diabetes. It’s like trying to see through a foggy window.


Diabetes can sometimes affect your mood. If you’re feeling more irritable or emotional than usual, it could be related to changes in your blood sugar levels.

Frequent Infections

If you’re getting infections more often, especially yeast infections, it might be related to diabetes. Changes in your body’s chemistry can make you more susceptible to infections.

Slow Healing

If cuts and wounds take longer to heal than they used to, diabetes might be a factor. Your body’s ability to repair itself could be affected.

Fruity Breath

If your breath smells fruity or sweet, it might be a sign of diabetes. This happens when your body can’t use sugar properly and starts using fat for energy.

What Medical Tests and Criteria Are Used to Diagnose Type 1 Diabetes?

If you’re showing signs of type 1 diabetes or have risk factors, your doctor will likely use a combination of these tests and criteria to make a diagnosis. It’s important to get a proper diagnosis and medical guidance for managing the condition:

Blood Sugar Test

Doctors often check your blood sugar levels using a simple blood test. If your blood sugar is consistently high, it could be a sign of diabetes. It’s like measuring the amount of sugar in your blood to see if it’s too much.

Glycated Hemoglobin (HbA1c) Test

This test shows your average blood sugar levels over the past few months. If the result is elevated, it might indicate diabetes. It’s like getting a summary of your blood sugar history.

Fasting Blood Sugar Test

You might need to fast overnight, and then your blood sugar is checked in the morning. If it’s higher than normal, it could point to diabetes. It’s like checking your blood sugar before you’ve eaten anything.

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test

For this test, you’ll drink a sugary solution, and then your blood sugar is checked over a few hours. If your blood sugar stays high, it could suggest diabetes. It’s like seeing how your body handles a sugar load.

C-Peptide Test

This test measures a substance called C-peptide, which is produced along with insulin. If your C-peptide levels are low, it might indicate that your body isn’t making enough insulin. It’s like checking if your body is producing insulin properly.

Autoantibody Tests

These tests check for certain antibodies in your blood that are often present in type 1 diabetes. If these antibodies are found, it suggests an autoimmune process is happening. It’s like looking for clues that your immune system is causing the problem.

Clinical Symptoms

Doctors also consider your symptoms, like excessive thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, and fatigue. If you have these symptoms along with abnormal blood sugar levels, it raises suspicion of diabetes.

Family History and Risk Factors

Your doctor might ask about your family history and any risk factors you have, like a family member with diabetes or other autoimmune conditions. These factors can help in the diagnosis.

How Is Type 1 Diabetes Treated?

Type 1 diabetes is treated through a combination of methods that help manage blood sugar levels and prevent complications. Here’s a simplified explanation of how it’s treated:

Insulin Therapy

People with type 1 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin, so they need to take insulin regularly. Insulin can be injected with a needle or delivered through an insulin pump. It’s like giving your body the hormone it needs to control sugar in your blood.

Blood Sugar Monitoring

Regularly checking your blood sugar levels with a blood glucose meter helps you understand how different foods and activities affect your levels. It’s like keeping an eye on your body’s sugar balance.

Carbohydrate Counting

Since carbohydrates affect blood sugar, learning to count carbohydrates in foods helps you match insulin doses to what you eat. It’s like balancing the amount of insulin with the amount of carbs.

Healthy Eating

A balanced diet with a focus on whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains helps keep blood sugar stable. It’s like choosing foods that provide sustained energy.

Physical Activity

Regular exercise helps lower blood sugar levels and improves insulin sensitivity. It’s like helping your body use sugar more efficiently.

Insulin Adjustment

Your insulin doses might need to be adjusted based on factors like your activity level, food intake, and blood sugar readings. It’s like fine-tuning your treatment plan.

Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM)

Some people use CGM devices that provide real-time data about their blood sugar levels. It’s like having a constant update on your body’s sugar situation.

Education and Support

Learning about diabetes, its management and connecting with healthcare professionals and support groups can make a big difference. It’s like getting tools to navigate your journey.

Emergency Plans

Knowing how to handle situations like low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) is important to avoid complications. It’s like having a safety plan for different scenarios.
Type 1 diabetes treatment is personalised, and what works for one person might differ for another. The goal is maintaining stable blood sugar levels to prevent immediate problems and long-term complications. If you have type 1 diabetes, working closely with your healthcare team is key to finding the right treatment plan for you.

Dr. Cho Li Wei 朱丽薇医生

Consultant Endocrinologist
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