Type I Diabetes: Insulin-Dependent Diabetes

Type I diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes. This form of diabetes is mainly found in children. The primary problem in all forms of diabetes, regardless if it is Type I or Type II is that the glucose (sugar) levels of the body are too high.

In a healthy person, the beta cells in the pancreas produce a hormone called insulin in response to sugar in the blood. The sugar gets there through the food and drinks we consume. Normally, the insulin helps to move the sugar from the bloodstream and into the cells of the body where it can be used for cellular processes. The insulin triggers gates located in the membranes of the cells to open, allowing the sugar to flow in.

A person with Type I diabetes can not make enough or any insulin. This produces the abnormally high levels of glucose in the bloodstream seen in these patients.

The question begs to be asked, “Why doesn’t the body produce insulin?” In Type I diabetes the culprit is the immune system. Something, whether it be genetic or environmental is still not clear, triggers the immune system to malfunction. Instead of viewing the beta cells of the pancreas as “self”, the immune system sees the beta cells as foreign invaders. Doing what it’s supposed to do, which is attack and destroy invading cells, the immune system in error attacks the beta cells.

Even though other beta cells can be produced by the pancreas, the speed at which the immune system attacks and destroys is too fast for the pancreas to keep up. Over time the amount of insulin produced in response to sugar in the blood is diminished.

The result is high blood sugar. Insulin shots can control the disease, however, there are currently treatments being studied which may actually stop the immune system from attacking itself which would bring about a natural halt to the problem.

Rachel Dayer runs and operates http://www.mustask.com, a health related portal.

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