Formerly called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, Type 1 diabetes mellitus is a disease of the pancreas, an organ located behind your stomach. Normally, the pancreas releases insulin into the blood, which helps the body use sugar and fats from the food you eat. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces too little or no insulin, so sugar can’t be used to make energy. This causes the blood sugar to rise, which can lead to complications.
People with type 1 diabetes must use insulin injections to control their blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes can appear at any age, but it tends to appear in childhood or early adolescence. Most cases appear by age 20 years.
Type 1 diabetes can’t be cured, but most people learn to manage their disease and lead normal lives. Good blood sugar management reduces the risk for future complications that affect your heart, kidneys, blood vessels, feet, nerves and eyes.
Risk factors for type 1 diabetes include a family history of diabetes, exposure to certain viruses, low vitamin D levels, drinking water containing nitrates, having a mother who had preeclampsia, early exposure to cow’s milk and being born with jaundice.
In pregnancy, high blood sugar levels increase the risk for miscarriage, stillbirth and birth defects. For the mother, type 1 diabetes increases the risk for diabetic ketoacidosis, eye problems, high blood pressure and preeclampsia.