Type 1 Diabetes: Changes, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


Over 9 million people globally have type 1 diabetes (T1D), most of whom are children and teenagers. In the United States, about 1.84 million people have developed T1D, with over 200,000 of them being below 20 years. Research also shows that close to 64,000 cases are diagnosed yearly in the United States, with the cumulative number of T1D cases projected to reach 5 million by 2050. Among the population aged below 20, non-Hispanic whites have the highest likelihood of developing T1D. It is estimated that T1D leads to over $16 billion in loss of income and related healthcare expenses annually (“Type 1 Diabetes Statistics”). Additionally, T1D has been linked to a shortened life span despite the constant development of treatment plans. In this case, men with T1D may have their life expectancy lessened by11 years compared to their counterparts without the condition. Alternatively, the life expectancy of women with T1D may be reduced by 13 years (Thompson). Type 1 diabetes is caused by insulin deficiency which adversely affects the blood vessels, nerves, kidneys, eyes, and feet, causing a malfunction in the body.

Anatomical Changes Associated with Type 1 Diabetes

T1D critically impairs the normal functioning of the pancreas in the body. In this case, the body experiences an immunological attack that damages the beta cells leading to insulin deficiency. However, this disorder does not only affect the pancreas but also other parts of the body. For instance, excessive blood sugar levels associated with T1D lower blood vessels’ elasticity, making them narrow, which hinders blood flow to the brain and the heart. This can lead to low oxygen, and blood supply resulting in a high propensity of developing high blood pressure and rapture of the blood vessels (Kahanovitz et al. 38). The narrowing or blockage of different arteries in the body may result in coronary artery disease, stroke, heart attack, and arteriosclerosis.

T1D may negatively affect the nerves, a condition called diabetes neuropathy, which affects different body parts. In this case, it may cause damage to the vagus nerve, which aids in moving food through the stomach and intestines; this may cause gastroparesis. Similarly, this disorder harms the nerves of an individual’s feet, causing tingling, pain, and loss of normal sensation, including the response to pain, heat, or cold (Smolin et al. 158). This may lead to sores or cuts, which may become infected, and due to the limited supply of blood to the feet, such infections may take a long time to heal. Some infections may never heal, resulting in amputating of different leg parts, such as a toe or the entire foot. In rare cases, neuropathy may alter the shape of an individual’s feet, causing Charcot’s foot. T1D affects the peripheral nerves and damages other nerves in the gut, heart, and bladder, impairing many body functions.

High glucose levels pose adverse effects on the kidneys leading to nephropathy and other complications. Increased blood sugar causes the narrowing and clogging of capillaries at the glomerulus, which hinders blood flow. Consequently, the kidneys become damaged, leading to the filtration of the albumin into the urine. Additionally, since T1D damages the nerves in the body, it hinders the transfer of signals between the brain and the rest of the body. In this case, since the nerves in the bladder are compromised, it is difficult to detect when the bladder becomes full. The pressure from the bladder may eventually impair the kidneys. Not to mention, any complications experienced in the urinary tract may also affect the normal functioning of the kidney (Smolin et al. 158). For example, due to nerve damage in the bladder, urine may be stored for a long, attracting bacteria that cause infections. Although the infections may substantially affect the bladder, sometimes, the infections may spread to the kidneys. Therefore, T1D may result in kidney damage, failure, and end-stage renal disease (ESRD).

T1D may often lead to severe vision and gum-related complications. An individual may develop blurred vision because elevated glucose levels prompt the body to draw fluids from the lenses in the eyes to regulate the sugar levels. This makes it difficult for an individual to focus effectively. The increased blood sugar linked to this disease alters the blood vessels in the retina, making them leak or undergo abnormal growth on the retina’s surface. This damages the retina resulting in vision loss or blindness (Patel et al. 84). Likewise, the retina may swell due to the leaky blood vessels causing macular edema. In addition, if the increased amounts of glucose destroy the blood capillaries in the retina, new abnormal ones may grow in the iris leading to glaucoma. Likewise, the alterations in the blood vessels minimize the supply of nutrients and the elimination of wastes, which weakens the gums and the bones, exposing them to infections (Moini and Chaney 144). Increased glucose levels in the mouth fluids encourage bacteria growth, which may cause gum disease.

Physiological Changes Caused by Type 1 Diabetes

The liver and the pancreas are vital in controlling the body’s blood sugar levels. The liver reserves and manufactures glucose according to the body’s needs. On the other hand, the pancreas produces glucagon and insulin hormones which control blood sugar levels. Glucagon is released when the blood glucose is low to prompt the liver to produce more glucose. Alternatively, insulin is produced when the glucose levels are high to stimulate the liver to convert glucose into glycogen; this helps lower the blood glucose to the required levels for normal body functioning.

People with T1D have a deficiency of insulin in the body. As a result, their bodies cannot efficiently regulate the blood’s glucose levels, resulting in increased blood sugar levels, a condition known as hyperglycemia. Without insulin, the various body cells are unable to absorb glucose. The lack of glucose in the cells triggers the liver to release more glucose, leading to extremely high blood sugar levels. Since the cells are unable to access glucose, they respond by breaking down fats to get energy. However, the conversion of fats to energy releases some waste products called ketones which accumulate to toxic levels causing blood acidity and a condition called ketoacidosis (“Type 1 Diabetes”). This condition makes the affected persons experience rapid heartbeats, fatigue, nausea, stomach pain, xerostomia, and facial flushing, among others. Acute cases of ketoacidosis may result in coma and loss of life. Therefore, the deficiency of insulin causes various abnormalities in the functioning of the body.

Causes, Symptoms, Prevalence, and Incidence of Type 1 Diabetes

T1D is triggered by a body’s immunological reaction that destroys beta cells in the pancreas responsible for insulin production. The risk factors include genetics, viruses, other environmental factors, and age. Research indicates that individuals with the HLA gene are highly susceptible to developing T1D since the gene intensifies the chances of an inappropriate immune reaction to beta cells (Harding et al. 1110). The common signs of T1D include frequent urination, fatigue and weakness, increased thirst, blurred vision, weight loss, and tingling in the hands and feet.

Research indicates that the incidence of T1D is 15 in every 100,000 people globally. The disease has a prevalence of 0.55 percent in the United States and 9.5 percent globally (Mobasseri et al. 98). In regards to race, Native Americans have a prevalence of 14.7%, Hispanics 12.5%, while Asian Americans and non-Hispanic whites have a prevalence of 9.2 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively (“Diabetes Statistics 2022”). The onset of T1D is predicted to fall between 4 to 7 years and 10 to 14 years. Nevertheless, it can appear at any age, even among adults in some cases. The prevalence and incidences of T1D are high in low and middle-economic backgrounds compared to high-income communities.

The Diagnosis and Management of Type 1 Diabetes

T1D can be diagnosed through the random plasma glucose (RPG) test. The test is aimed at detecting an individual’s glucose level at a particular point in time. In some cases, healthcare professionals may use the A1C blood test to determine how long an individual’s glucose level has been high (Kahanovitz et al. 39). Nevertheless, to effectively identify whether an individual has T1D, their blood must be tested for specific autoantibodies. There are no known preventive measures or an approved cure for T1D.

The disease can be managed by administering lifelong insulin shots or using an insulin pump. In addition, it is recommended that T1D patients should ensure constant monitoring of blood glucose levels. In cases where patients are unable to reach their glucose level targets with the use of insulin alone, they may be prescribed pramlintide to use alongside the insulin. Pramlintide, which is also given in the form of shots, prevents blood sugar from increasing tremendously, particularly after eating (“Pramlintide Injection”). Equally important, the patients should follow a regular and healthy diet. The diet should include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and proteins such as eggs, seafood, legumes, and nuts. Such foods will significantly help in the reduction of cholesterol levels. Finally, the patients should remain physically active to maintain the required glucose levels.


T1D occurs due to an immunological body response that inhibits the pancreas’ ability to secret insulin. The deficiency of insulin causes elevated blood glucose levels, affecting different parts of the body. T1D leads to kidney, eye, heart, and feet complications, affecting normal body functions. This disease is common among children and young adults, though it may affect adults in some rare cases. Although there is no known cure or preventive measure, the disorder can be managed by constantly administering insulin shots, eating a healthy diet, and regular exercise. T1D is given less attention compared to other types of diabetes. This is despite the growing number of cases over the years. Additionally, published literature on the prevalence and incidences of T1D are scarce among the adult population; rather, much research on this disorder has been restricted to studies on children and adolescents. Therefore, in the future, more research should be focused on T1D, and also studies should be conducted about its impacts on all age groups to determine how best to manage the condition for children, adolescents, and adults.

Works Cited

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“Type 1 Diabetes”. Medlineplus, 2020, Web.

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Kahanovitz, Lindy et al. “Type 1 Diabetes—A Clinical Perspective“. Point Of Care: The Journal of Near-Patient Testing & Technology, vol. 16, no. 1, 2017, pp. 37-40. Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer Health), Web.

Mobasseri, Majid et al. “Prevalence and Incidence of Type 1 Diabetes in the World: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis“. Health Promotion Perspectives, vol. 10, no. 2, 2020, pp. 98-115. Maad Rayan Publishing Company, Web.

Moini, Jahangir, and Chaney Casey. Introduction to Pathology for the Physical Therapist Assistant. Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2019.

Patel, Jayvadan K., et al., eds. Drug Delivery for the Retina and Posterior Segment Disease. Springer, 2018.

Smolin, Lori A., and Mary B. Grosvenor. Nutrition: Science and Applications. John Wiley & Sons, 2020.

Thompson, Dennis. “Type 1 Diabetes Linked To Lower Life Expectancy In Study”. Webmd, Web.

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