Type 1 Diabetes

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas (called beta cells). As a result, the pancreas is unable to make enough insulin, a hormone that converts sugar from food (glucose) into energy. When a child has diabetes, sugar builds up in their blood, which can cause long-term damage of the nerves, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and circulation.

Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a lifelong condition. Children with type 1 diabetes must take insulin injections every day. By closely managing their blood sugar, diet and exercise, many people with diabetes live long, healthy lives.

While type 1 diabetes accounts for only about 10 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes in the country, it’s one of the most common chronic diseases in children. About one in every 600 children in the United States develops type 1 diabetes.

Most of the time, children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during puberty, when girls are 10 to 12 years old and when boys are 12 to 14 years old. A growing number of younger children develop type 1 diabetes before they turn 5. Some adults are first diagnosed in their 30s or later.

Type 1 diabetes tends to run in families. Brothers and sisters of children with type 1 diabetes have about a 10 percent chance of developing the disease by the time they turn 50.