What is type 1?

Type 1 diabetes is a disease where the body cannot produce insulin, a hormone that is essential for processing carbohydrates in food. Although it can occur at any age, it usually develops in childhood. Type 1 affects more than 120,000 people in Australia.  

Type 1 in an autoimmune disease, which means the immune system suddenly starts to recognise the body's own cells - in this case, the beta cells which produce insulin - as 'enemies', and destroys them. When the beta cells are destroyed, the body can no longer produce insulin.  Insulin has a very important job in the body; it is responsible for turning glucose (which enters the bloodstream when a person eats carbohydrates) into energy. A person diagnosed with type 1 diabetes is left dependent on injected insulin for the rest of their lives.

Type 1 diabetes is not preventable. The cause of type 1 diabetes is not known, although we know that it occurs in people with a certain genetic makeup.

Unlike type 2 diabetes, type 1 is not lifestyle driven.

Treating type 1

People with type 1 diabetes must keep their blood glucose level as close to normal as possible to avoid the risks associated with glucose levels that are too high or too low. This is not easy. Think about it like this: people with type 1 must do the job of their pancreas, an extremely fine-tuned and highly sensitive system, manually! 

To stay alive, people with type 1 diabetes must have a constant supply of insulin through injections or an insulin pump. They also must test their blood sugar by pricking their fingers for a drop of blood to enter into a machine at least four times a day. Finally, people with type 1 must constantly count the carbohydrates in food in order to match their insulin dose to the food they are eating.

Type 1 statistics

Type 1 diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in children, it occurs more frequently than cancer, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy.

Approximately 1825 Australians are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year.

Incidence is increasing at 3.2% a year.

In Australia, around 95% of the diabetes found in children is type 1 diabetes.

(Statistics sourced from JDRF)