In type 1 diabetes, a person’s pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone necessary to sustain life. In a healthy person, glucose-a form of sugar produced when food is digested is burned as fuel to supply the body with energy. To turn food into energy, the body requires insulin, which allows glucose to move from the bloodstream into body cells to be used for energy.
In people with type 1 diabetes, the body’s own immune system has attacked and destroyed its insulin producing beta cells (resulting in life-threateningly high levels of blood glucose), meaning insulin must be obtained from another source–injections or an insulin pump.
Although the causes are not entirely known, scientists believe the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It is not caused by obesity or by eating excessive sugar, which are two common myths about type 1. To stay alive, people with type 1 diabetes must monitor their blood sugar frequently, inject insulin several times a day, and coordinate physical activities with their meal plan and insulin intake.
For more information please see the OutreachResources: What is Type 1 Diabetes?.