Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose
(pronounced: GLOO-kose), a sugar that is the body's main source of fuel. Your body
needs glucose to keep running. Here's how it should work.
Glucose from the food enters your bloodstream.
Your pancreas makes a hormone
Insulin helps the glucose get into the body's cells.
Your body gets the energy it needs.
The pancreas is a long,
flat gland in your belly that helps your body digest food. It also makes insulin.
Insulin is kind of like a key that opens the doors to the cells of the body. It lets
the glucose in. Then the glucose can move out of the blood and into the cells.
But in diabetes, either the body can't make insulin or the insulin doesn't work
in the body like it should. The glucose can't get into the cells normally, so the
blood sugar level gets
too high. Lots of sugar in the blood makes people sick if they don't get treatment.
What Is Type 1 Diabetes?
There are two major types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Each type causes high
blood sugar levels in a different way.
In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas can't make insulin. That's because the body's
immune system attacked the
pancreas and destroyed the cells that make insulin.
When a person has type 1 diabetes, the body still can get glucose from food, but
the lack of insulin means that glucose can't get into the cells where it's needed.
So the glucose stays in the blood. This makes the blood sugar level very high and
causes health problems.
Once a person has type 1 diabetes, the pancreas can't ever make insulin again.
To fix this problem, someone who has type 1 diabetes needs to take insulin through
or an insulin pump.
Type 2 diabetes is different
from type 1 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas still makes insulin. But the
insulin doesn't work in the body like it should and blood sugar levels get too high.
What Causes Type 1 Diabetes?
No one knows for sure what causes type 1 diabetes, but scientists think it has
something to do with genes.
Genes are like instructions for how the body should look and work that are passed
on by parents to their kids.
But just getting the genes for diabetes isn't usually enough. In most cases, something
else has to happen — like getting a viral infection — for a person to
develop type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes can't be prevented. Doctors can't even tell who will get it and
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes?
People can have diabetes without knowing it because the symptoms aren't always
obvious and they can take a long time to develop. Type 1 diabetes may come on gradually
When a person first has type 1 diabetes, he or she may:
pee a lot because the body tries to get rid of the extra blood
sugar by passing it out of the body in the urine
drink a lot to make up for all that peeing
eat a lot because the body is hungry for the energy it can't
get from sugar
lose weight because the body starts to use fat and muscle for
feel tired all the time
Also, girls who have developed diabetes are more likely to get vaginal
yeast infections before they're diagnosed and treated.
If these early symptoms of diabetes aren't recognized and treatment isn't started,
chemicals can build up in the blood and cause stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, breathing
problems, and even loss of consciousness. Doctors call this diabetic ketoacidosis,
There's good news, though — getting treatment can control or stop these diabetes
symptoms from happening and reduce the risk of long-term problems.
How Is Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosed?
Doctors can say for sure if a person has diabetes by testing blood samples for
glucose. If the doctor suspects that a kid or teen has diabetes, he or she may send
the person to see a pediatric
endocrinologist — a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating children
and teens living with diseases of the endocrine
system, such as diabetes and growth problems.
How Is Type 1 Diabetes Treated?
People with type 1 diabetes have to pay a little more attention to what they're
eating and doing than people who don't have diabetes.
have regular checkups with doctors and other people on their diabetes health care
team so they can stay healthy and get treatment for any diabetes problems
What's it Like for Teens With Type 1 Diabetes?
Sometimes people who have diabetes feel different from their friends because they
need to take insulin, think about how they eat, and control their blood sugar levels
Some teens with diabetes want to deny that they even have it. They might hope that
if they ignore diabetes, it will just go away. They may feel angry, depressed,
helpless, or that their parents are constantly worrying about their diabetes management.
If you've been diagnosed with diabetes, it's normal to feel like your world has
been turned upside down. Your doctor or diabetes
health care team is there to provide answers and support. Don't hesitate to ask
your doctors, dietitian, and other treatment professionals for advice and tips. It
also can help to find support groups where you can talk about your feelings and find
out how other teens cope.
Diabetes brings challenges, but teens who have it play sports, travel, date, go
to school, and work just like their friends.