Type 1 Diabetes 

This handout is about type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes means that the body no longer makes insulin. It is caused when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. 

Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas. It is needed to move glucose into the cells. Insulin opens the cell walls and allows glucose to enter. Once inside the cells, glucose is used for energy. Glucose is the fuel that your body needs to function well. Without insulin, glucose builds up in your blood. This can cause symptoms of high blood sugar and cause long-term problems. 


Risk Factors

The main risk factor is having a family member with type 1 diabetes. It is more common in whites than nonwhites. It occurs most often in young people but can occur at any age. Of all people with diabetes, about 5% have type 1 diabetes. The cause of this disease is not clear. 

Symptoms of High Blood Sugar

Symptoms of high blood sugar can develop over hours or days. Common symptoms include:

  • Frequent urination

  • Hunger

  • Thirst

  • Weakness

  • Weight loss

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea and vomiting


Lab tests will be done to test for diabetes.

  • A1C test result of 6.5% or higher (See Health Facts for You: A1C Test and the Estimated Average Glucose)

  • Fasting blood glucose 126 mg/dL or higher. “Fasting” means nothing to eat or drink (except water) for at least 8 hours before the blood test.

  • Symptoms of diabetes and blood glucose of 200 mg/dL or higher


Since your body must have insulin, you will need to take insulin every day. Learning about diabetes and how to treat it will help you stay healthy. Some of the things you will need to learn include: 

  • How and when to check your blood sugars

  • How to give yourself insulin

  • How to eat healthy

  • How to balance insulin, meals, and exercise to prevent low or high blood sugars

  • How to treat low blood sugars

  • How to take care of yourself when sick

The more you know, the better you can manage your diabetes. 

Build Your Team 

You are the most important person on the team. Care team members include:

  • Your doctor 

  • Clinic nurse

  • Medical assistant

  • Diabetes nurse educator 

  • Dietitian 

They will help you learn to take care of your diabetes and help you keep track of routine tests. 

A dentist, eye doctor, foot doctor, a counselor, and someone to help you with an exercise plan are also good team members.  Don’t forget to include family members and friends who can support you.