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Type 1 Diabetes: Symptoms and Diagnosis

In type 1 diabetes, your body does not produce insulin, which is the hormone necessary for processing glucose.  Glucose is used by cells in your body as an energy source, and without insulin, glucose can’t get into those cells. It stays in the blood, and when you have too much glucose in your blood, it can damage your organs and other parts of your body.

kid drinking waterType 1 Diabetes Symptoms

Type 1 diabetes develops gradually, but the symptoms come on suddenly. As soon as the body is no longer making insulin, blood glucose levels rise quickly, so the following type 1 diabetes warning signs can develop:

  • extreme weakness
  • extreme tiredness
  • rapid weight loss
  • increased appetite
  • extreme thirst
  • increased urination
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • fruity breath
  • wounds that don’t heal well
  • blurry vision

These are the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes, and if you or your child experience any of them, make an appointment to see your doctor immediately.

Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis

To diagnose type 1 diabetes, doctors use several blood tests:

  • Glycated hemoglobin (A1c) test: In 2010, the American Diabetes Association said that the A1c test can be used to help diagnosis type 1 diabetes. The A1c test shows your average blood glucose (blood sugar) level over the past 2 to 3 months. If you have an A1c of 6.5% or higher on 2 separate occasions, then you have diabetes
  • Random blood glucose test: As the name implies, this is a random test of your blood glucose level—no preparation or warning on your part. If your random blood glucose level is 200 mg/dL or higher, then you have diabetes.
  • Fasting blood glucose test: This test also checks your blood glucose level, but it’s done after you have fasted overnight. If the fasting blood glucose level is 126 mg/dL or higher on 2 separate occasions, then you  have diabetes.

In fully diagnosing type 1 diabetes, the doctor will also ask about your symptoms, and he or she may also test for the presence of ketones in your urine.

Ketones are created when fat is broken down, and if your body can longer process glucose, it will turn to breaking down fat for energy. High levels of ketones are dangerous, and some people with type 1 diabetes have high levels when they are first diagnosed.

Often, additional special tests are done to confirm that in fact there are antibodies against your pancreas or the beta cells (the cells that produce insulin) present in your body. Your doctor will determine if you need to have these tests done when you are diagnosed with diabetes type 1.

What Happens After a Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis

Once you—or your child—is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, treatment with insulin can begin to help regulate blood glucose levels. You will have a diabetes treatment team that will help you make the transition to this new world of type 1 diabetes. You can also find great resources on this site to help support you, including hundreds of diabetes-friendly recipes as well as a handy glossary of terms, and blogs from folks living with type 1, along with expert bloggers.

Updated on: December 2, 2015
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