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Type 1 diabetes: Incurable yet manageable

TYPE 1 diabetes is also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin dependent diabetes. This is a type of diabetes that normally appears in childhood or during teenage years, it can occur at any stage in life. Type 1 diabetes is the condition where the body stops producing insulin. Insulin is produced by cells found on the pancreas; these cells are destroyed by antibodies produced by the body and in some cases can be destroyed as a side effect of taking certain drugs.
Insulin allows the body’s different cells to use glucose for energy. There are several risk factors for developing Type 1 diabetes, these include but are not limited to: Exposure to certain viruses, Epstein- Barr, cytomegalovirus, rubella or Coxsackie viruses may lead to destruction of the beta cells in the pancreas through direct action of the virus on the cells or the antibodies created to fight the virus. A family history of type 1 diabetes, either in a parent or sibling increases the risk of developing type 1 diabetes. Having low levels of vitamin D in early childhood significantly increases your risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
The human body uses glucose as fuel for all activities, this glucose is obtained from food that is eaten and from stores in the liver, insulin helps the glucose move from the blood into the cells so that they get the energy required to work properly. People with type1 diabetes do not produce insulin or produce only a very small amount of insulin, which means the glucose cannot enter the cells and remains in the blood (hyperglycaemia) causing several different effects (symptoms). The most common symptoms of diabetes type 1 are directly related to high blood sugar levels. Dehydration is caused by the high sugar levels as the body tries to balance the levels by producing more urine, the increase in output of urine means more sugar and water leave the bloodstream, leading to thirst and in some cases mild dehydration. Weight loss is another phenomenon that is noticed, despite eating more food, there appears to be loss of weight. This happens because of the lack of insulin to help the glucose enter the cells of the body, the cells are therefore starved and unable to perform their duties. Diabetic Ketoacidosis is a condition in which the body breaks down fat in order to get energy, the product of this are known as ketones which may accumulate in the blood and cause a diabetic person to seem drunk, pass out and even go into coma. The warning signs of diabetic ketoacidosis are Extreme thirst with dry mouth, frequent urination, high blood sugar levels, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains, fruity odour on the breath and mental confusion. Diabetic Acidosis is a dangerous condition and should be dealt with by trained health professionals.
Although there is no cure for diabetes type 1, it is important to live a healthy life style and use whatever medication you have been given according to the instructions given in order to maintain an incident free life.
For more information email 990health@champ.org.zm

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