Type 1 diabetes | Diabetes & Endocrinology | UC Davis Health

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition that results from failure of the pancreas to produce enough or any insulin. Without sufficient insulin, blood sugar (glucose) cannot enter the cells of the body, and it instead accumulates in the blood vessels. Over time, blood glucose that is higher than normal can cause damage to many organs of the body.

Only about 1 in 10 people with diabetes have type 1. While it cannot be cured, our diabetes specialists can treat it effectively. Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed by means of fasting or random blood glucose tests, or an A1C test, which measures the amount of glucose attached to hemoglobin — the protein that carries oxygen inside red blood cells. An A1C of 6.5% or greater on two or more tests indicates diabetes.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

In addition to symptoms common to all forms of diabetes, type 1 diabetes can cause:

  • Stomach aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Causes of Type 1 Diabetes

Doctors and scientists believe that type 1 diabetes result from an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack and destroys islet cells, which produce insulin inside the pancreas. That autoimmune disorder may be due to genetics, or to environmental factors.

Type 1 diabetes most commonly appears during childhood or early adolescence, but anyone of any age can develop it. At this point no means of preventing type 1 diabetes is known, but scientists at UC Davis Health and elsewhere are researching the disease to learn more about its causes and to develop even more effective treatments that they may offer to patients in clinical trials.

Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is managed using several approaches, including:

  • Counting the amount of carbohydrates, protein and fats eaten
  • Taking injections of synthetic insulin
  • Checking blood sugar level at regular times
  • Eating a balanced diet consisting of healthy foods
  • Exercising consistently and managing weight

Several forms of insulin therapy are available, including rapid-acting and intermediate-acting insulin as well as long- and ultra-long-acting insulin. Injections can be done using a syringe with a fine needle, or an insulin pen that delivers measured doses, or an insulin pump, which is a small device that delivers doses of insulin at programmed intervals by means of a tiny tube that’s inserted into the skin.

The amount of insulin needed depends on several factors, including weight, age, and dietary and exercise habits. Our diabetes team members will help precisely determine the amount of insulin that you may need to regulate your blood glucose to help you feel better and potentially live longer.