Diabetes can strike anyone, from any walk of life. And it does – in numbers that are dramatically increasing. Today, more than 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes. Worldwide, more than 422 million people have diabetes.
Diabetes is a serious condition that causes higher than normal blood sugar levels. Diabetes occurs when your body cannot make or effectively use its own insulin, a hormone made by special cells in the pancreas called islets (eye-lets). Insulin serves as a “key” to open your cells, to allow the sugar (glucose) from the food you eat to enter. Then, your body uses that glucose for energy.
But with diabetes, several major things can go wrong to cause diabetes. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the most common forms of the disease, but there are also other kinds, such as gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy, as well as other forms.
Type 1 diabetes is the most severe form of the disease. About 10% of people who have diabetes have type 1 diabetes, or insulin-dependent diabetes. Type 1 diabetes has also been called juvenile diabetes becuse it usually develops in children and teenagers. But people of all ages can develop type 1 diabetes.
In type 1 diabetes, the body`s immune system attacks the insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas. The islet cells sense glucose in the blood and produce the right amount of insulin to normalize blood sugars. This attack on the body's own cells is known as autoimmune disease. Scientists are not sure why the autoimmune attack happens.
But once the insulin-producing cells are destroyed, a person can no longer produce their own insulin. Without insulin, there is no “key” So, the sugar stays in the blood and builds up. As a result, the body`s cells starve. And, if left untreated, high blood sugar levels can damage eyes, kidneys, nerves, and the heart, and can also lead to coma and death.
So type 1 diabetes must be treated through a daily regimen of insulin therapy.