Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes Type 1 ยท IDDM

The Facts

Diabetes is a condition in which the body cannot properly store and use sugar for energy. The body's main fuel is a form of sugar called glucose, which comes from food (after it's been broken down). Glucose enters the blood and is used by cells for energy. To use glucose, the body needs a hormone called insulin, which is made by the pancreas.

Insulin is important because it allows glucose to leave the blood and enter the body's cells. Diabetes develops when your body can't make any or enough insulin, or when it can't properly use the insulin it makes.

There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes develops when your body makes little or no insulin. When this happens, glucose can't get into the cells for energy and remains in the blood, causing hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

Type 1 diabetes used to be called juvenile-onset diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). Most people develop type 1 diabetes before the age of 30, but it can also occur in older adults. In North America, 5% to 10% of people with diabetes have type 1 diabetes. It occurs equally among women and men.


A predisposition for type 1 diabetes can be inherited, but no one knows how exactly it's passed on. Different environmental factors are likely involved, and they probably determine whether the disease develops or not.

While the exact cause of type 1 diabetes isn't known, researchers believe the disease develops when a virus or toxin damages the pancreas or causes the body's immune system to attack the pancreas (called an autoimmune reaction). As a result, the cells of the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin.

Without insulin, glucose in the blood can't enter the cells in the body and blood glucose levels rise. The body begins breaking down fat and protein for energy instead of using glucose for energy.

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The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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