Although the number of kids with type 2 diabetes is growing, children with type 1 diabetes is still the most prevalent form of disease in people younger than 18. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s own immune system, designed to attack infectious agents invading from outside, instead attacks cells that perform a healthy, normal body function.
In type 1 diabetes, either essential cells of the pancreas are destroyed by the immune system or the pancreas simply does not produce enough insulin, a hormone essential to life. After the food that we eat releases sugar into the bloodstream, insulin is like a key that unlocks the cells to receive the sugar for energy. Without insulin, the sugar (glucose) cannot be used, and it builds up in the blood stream. When no insulin is available, your body starves — even though you may have plenty of sugar in your bloodstream.
Type 1 diabetes was formerly called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. For the rest of their lives, children with type 1 diabetes must get insulin shots or use a pump that delivers insulin automatically.
What Causes Type 1 Diabetes?
The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. Children who have it may have inherited a genetic condition (why the disease develops at a particular time, whether it be in infancy, childhood, puberty, or adulthood, however, is still a mystery). It generally appears when they are very young or in their teenage years. It seems to run in the family, so if both parents are diabetic, there’s a higher risk their children will also develop the disease.
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