Diabetes Type 1



Type 1 diabetes happens when the pancreas does not make enough insulin. It is most often caused by an immune system problem. It is not known why the body's own immune system attacks the pancreas. The damage makes it impossible for the pancreas to make enough insulin. There may be something in genes that causes this to happen.

The Pancreas
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Risk Factors

Type 1 most often appears in children and young adults. It is also more common in people who have family members with it.



Symptoms may be:

  • Urinating (peeing) more often, especially at night
  • Bedwetting
  • Feeling tired and weak
  • Being very thirsty
  • Hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Belly pain

Ketoacidosis can happen when a person’s glucose gets very high. It can be deadly if it is not treated right away.


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. A blood test will show the glucose levels. Levels higher than normal levels show diabetes. The blood may be tested with a finger prick and confirmed with blood sent to a lab. The lab can also look for:

  • Insulin level or C-peptide tests—to see how much insulin is being made by the pancreas
  • Tests that look for antibodies that are working against the pancreas




Healthy Habits

Reduce Risk of Complications

Other Options

The goal is to keep blood glucose levels close to normal levels. The care team and person will work together to make a plan for control. The plan may change over time. But the focus is keeping blood glucose balanced and decreasing the risk of problems. Treatment includes a combination of medicine and healthy habits:

All people with type 1 need to take insulin. It will replace the insulin that their body does not make. It can be given by injection, inhaler, or by a pump that gives it in small amounts during the day. The amount will need to be balanced based on activity and food for the day. Too much insulin can cause problems. It can lead to very low levels of glucose called hypoglycemia. A diabetes plan and education can keep these events low.

Pramlintide may be used if insulin alone is not enough. It may help those who are having a hard time with blood glucose control after eating.

Many things can affect blood glucose levels. Examples are foods, activity, and illness. A good treatment plan will address these things to keep blood glucose balanced. Regular blood glucose checks are important. They will help to guide insulin doses. They will also alert for dangerously high or low glucose levels.

A balanced diet and regular exercise can also help. They can cause immediate change in blood glucose and reduce the risk of long term problems.

Over time, high blood glucose levels can cause damage to eyes , kidneys , and nerves. It can also cause slow healing, especially on feet. Good blood glucose control can help to manage these risks. The care plan will include a check of immediate and long term blood glucose control.

Exercise and diet can also help to prevent or lessen complications. They can keep the heart and blood vessels as healthy as possible.

A pancreatic islet cell transplant may be done in people who are not helped by other methods. It uses donor cells from the pancreas called islet cells. The new cells can make insulin. Some people may no longer need insulin after the transplant. Not all care centers offer this treatment.

A pancreas transplant may be done if other methods do not work. It is often done with a kidney transplant. This surgery may cause other problems, such as infection or organ rejection.


Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.