Sometimes the immune system goes off the rails and instead of fighting off infection and disease it attacks the part of the body it is supposed to be protecting. This is called an autoimmune disease.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. In this case, the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The pancreas then produces little or no insulin. Scientists do not know exactly what causes the body's immune system to attack the beta cells, but they believe that autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors, possibly viruses, are involved.
Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5 to 10 percent of diagnosed diabetes in the United States. It develops most often in children and young adults but can appear at any age.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually develop over a short period, although beta cell destruction can begin years earlier. If not diagnosed and treated with insulin, a person with type 1 diabetes can lapse into a life-threatening diabetic coma, also known as diabetic ketoacidosis.
Symptoms may include:
- increased thirst
- Constant hunger.
- Weight loss.
- Blurred vision.
- Extreme fatigue.