Type 1 diabetes in pictures

What is Type 1 diabetes? The facts: Around 345,000 people are living with Type 1 diabetes in the UK. The peak age for diagnosis is 9–14 but you can be diagnosed as a young child or adult. It’s an autoimmune condition that’s not caused by lifestyle. Normally, cells in our pancreas produce insulin. When the carbohydrates we eat are broken down to glucose (sugar) in our body, insulin moves the glucose into our cells. The cells need glucose to survive. But in Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune response means the body destroys its own insulin- producing cells. This means that someone with Type 1 doesn’t produce any insulin. Nobody knows exactly what causes the immune system to attack the insulin-producing cells but science tells us it’s got nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. This is different to Type 2, which can be caused by lifestyle. Because there is no insulin, glucose can’t get into the body cells and it builds up in the blood. This leads to symptoms such as thirst, needing to pass urine often, tiredness and weight loss. Currently there is no cure. For people with Type 1, injecting insulin, or receiving insulin via a pump, is vital to survive. But having Type 1 diabetes shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying a full and active life. For more information about Type 1 diabetes and its symptoms go to www.diabetes.org.uk/Type-1-diabetes.

What is Type 1 diabetes?

When we eat, our body breaks down carbohydrates into smaller sugar units called glucose. Carbohydrates are found in starchy foods (like bread, potatoes and pasta) and also in fruit, some dairy products, sugar and other sweet foods. The glucose then moves into our blood stream. Our body needs glucose to survive.

Normally, special cells in our pancreas (an organ in our body) produce insulin. After eating, insulin is needed to move the glucose from our blood and into our body cells where it’s used as energy. But, in Type 1 diabetes there is an autoimmune reaction. This means that the body attacks its own cells in the pancreas. As a result, the insulin-producing cells are destroyed and someone with Type 1 doesn’t make any insulin.

This causes glucose to build up in the blood and leads to symptoms like thirst, needing to pass urine often, tiredness and weight loss (as the body has to break down fat to get energy).

What causes Type 1 diabetes?

It’s a common misunderstanding that Type 1 diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar – it’s not. In fact, nobody knows exactly what causes the autoimmune reaction – but we do know that it’s got nothing to do with lifestyle, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it.

How do you treat Type 1 diabetes?

Currently there is no cure and people with Type 1 diabetes have to take insulin every day to survive. Insulin is given by injections or through a pump.