Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus
Type 1 diabetes mellitus is characterized by loss of the insulin-producing beta cells of the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, leading to a deficiency of insulin. The main cause of this beta cell loss is a T-cell mediated autoimmune attack. There is no known preventative measure that can be taken against Type 1 diabetes, which comprises up to 10% of diabetes mellitus cases in North America and Europe (though this varies by geographical location). Most affected people are otherwise healthy and of a healthy weight when onset occurs. Sensitivity and responsiveness to insulin are usually normal, especially in the early stages. Type 1 diabetes can affect children or adults but was traditionally termed "juvenile diabetes" because it represents a majority of cases of diabetes affecting children.
The principal treatment of Type 1 diabetes, even from the earliest stages, is replacement of insulin combined with careful monitoring of blood glucose levels using blood testing monitors. Without insulin, diabetic ketoacidosis can develop and may result in coma or death. Emphasis is also placed on lifestyle adjustments (diet and exercise) though these cannot reverse the loss. Apart from the common subcutaneous injections, it is also possible to deliver insulin by a pump, which allows continuous infusion of insulin 24 hours a day at preset levels, and the ability to program doses (a bolus) of insulin as needed at meal times. An inhaled form of insulin, Exubera, was approved by the FDA in January 2006.
Type 1 treatment must be continued indefinitely. Treatment does not impair normal activities, if sufficient awareness, appropriate care, and discipline in testing and medication is taken. The average glucose level for the Type 1 patient should be as close to normal (80–120 mg/dl, 4–6 mmol/l) as possible. Some physicians suggest up to 140–150 mg/dl (7-7.5 mmol/l) for those having trouble with lower values, such as frequent hypoglycemic events. Values above 200 mg/dl (10 mmol/l) are often accompanied by discomfort and frequent urination leading to dehydration. Values above 300 mg/dl (15 mmol/l) usually require immediate treatment and may lead to ketoacidosis. Low levels of blood glucose, called hypoglycemia, may lead to seizures or episodes of unconsciousness.