Type 1 diabetes usually comes on suddenly, and the first symptoms are often related to high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Hyperglycemia is characterized by frequent urination, excessive thirst and appetite, and weight loss Table 01. The increased need to urinate results from the extra water produced by the kidneys to dilute excess blood sugar in the urine. This excess urination can in turn lead to dehydration and thirst. Blurred vision, fatigue, and recurrent infections (vaginal, bladder, and skin) are other symptoms associated with hyperglycemia.
Table 1. Symptoms of Hyperglycemia
Frequent urination Thirst Increased appetite Weight loss Fatigue Weakness Blurred vision Infections (vaginal, bladder, skin)
In some cases, a potentially dangerous complication of diabetes called diabetic ketoacidosis is the first sign that something is wrong. When the body lacks the insulin it needs to use glucose, it turns to the fat stores for energy. Fatty acids get broken down in the liver and produce by-products called ketone bodies (ketones). A build-up of ketones increases the acidity of the blood, and can deplete key minerals. In very severe cases, coma or death can result.
Symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include:
- fruity-smelling breath
- difficulty breathing
- nausea and vomiting
Type 1 diabetes usually appears during childhood or in young adults. Type 1 diabetes is rarely diagnosed in middle-aged adults. The incidence of the disease rises from birth to adolescence and peaks at around age 12. Heredity seems to play a role in the development of the disease, but many patients have no family history. Researchers think that type 1 diabetes may be triggered in certain people by environmental factors such as early exposure to certain viruses, but they are still trying to determine all of these risk factors.
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