What Is Type 1 Diabetes

Alexia, living with type 1 diabetes
Alexia has type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a life-long autoimmune disease that usually occurs in childhood but can be diagnosed at any age. Type 1 diabetes affects over 120,000 people in Australia alone.

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.

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 sounds easy, but in reality, this is very 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) reactions, which can both be life threatening.

Hypoglycaemia and Hyperglycaemia

Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) is a common and dangerous 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 clog in 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 Statistics

  • Type 1 diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in children, it occurs more frequently than cancer, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy
  • Approximately 2400 Australians are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year
  • 10-14 years is the peak age of diagnosis
  • In Australia, around 95% of the diabetes found in children is type 1 diabetes