What are the Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes?

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By : dLife Editors

If you or someone you know is concerned they might have Type 1 Diabetes, it’s important to know what common symptoms are important to look for in order to seek appropriate medical care.  We’ll provide some background and what to look for.

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic condition that develops when cells are not able to utilize the glucose produced by the body.  Insulin is a hormone that supports the transport of the glucose to the cells and utilization.  In type 1 diabetes, the β- cells of the pancreas that produce this insulin are destroyed by the body’s immune cells.  This is caused by a disruption in the normal functioning of the immune system characterized as an autoimmune disorder.  A deficiency in the insulin hormone causes the build-up of sugar in the blood called, hyperglycemia.

Development of Symptoms

For diabetes 1 patients, higher blood sugar levels than normal develop, similar to patients with diabetes 2. However, in diabetics 1 patients, blood has antibodies against the β- cells that can be detected in the blood. This is one differentiating factor between diabetes 1 and 2.

Not all type 1 diabetics who show these antibodies develop symptomatic diabetes. The reason being the variation in genetics, environmental factors influencing the rate and extent of destruction of the β- cells.

It may take a few months to several years for symptomatic onset. However, once the onset occurs or the threshold level of destruction of β- cells so that the body does not have enough insulin reaches, then hyperglycemia develops usually within few days or few weeks in children young adults.

Sometimes, symptoms have a late onset in the adult stage, called as LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes of the adult) that is often mistaken for type 2 diabetes. A test for type 1 diabetes antibodies should be done to distinguish between the two types.

Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms:


A condition where the body urinates more than usual and passes excessive amounts of urine.  This happens because the kidneys of diabetics are trying to get rid of excess sugar in the blood. To do that, more water is eliminated by the kidneys to maintain the balance, resulting in the increased need to urinate.

  • The body can shed more than 3 liters of the urine in comparison to the normal o1-2 liters/day.
  • The patient develops a frequent and sudden urge for urination.
  • It’s more noticeable at night.


The term is given to excessive thirst and one of the initial symptoms of hyperglycemia. It results from frequent urination that causes dehydration. To compensate the loss of water, the body requires more water to quench the thirst.

  • We feel thirsty during various times of the day. However, if you feel thirsty all the time and the thirst persists even after drinking water, it can be a sign of polydipsia.


Diabetic 1 patients have intense and frequent hunger pangs. Because most of the glucose is eliminated by the urine and the body cells are not able to receive the required glucose for energy production, your body craves for more food to compensate the energy need, hence the frequent and increased appetite.

Weight Loss

A Type 1 diabetics’ body eliminates more glucose than it’s utilizing. The deficiency of insulin prevents the body from using the glucose. Instead, the body starts burning fat and muscles for energy, causing a reduction in the overall body weight.

  • Water loss due to frequent urination contributes to weight loss.
  • If you experience unexplained weight loss i.e. loss of more 10 lbs in 6 months, please consult your doctor, you may be at the initial stages of onset of type 1 diabetes.


The body is removing more glucose needed for energy production than normal levels.  The body feels weak because it is not getting the energy it needs. Also, in the deficiency of insulin, the blood sugar is not able to reach the cells to meet the demand for energy.  Those with diabetes type 1 and high insulin dosages may experience fatigue because of low blood glucose levels.

Blurred Vision

When sugar builds up in the lens of the eye it draws more water to accumulate in the eye leading to a blurring of vision, causing loss of sharpness of vision and inability to see fine details.

Diabetic Angiopathy

The presence of constant high amounts of glucose in the blood vessels affects the innermost layer of vessels, especially the microvasculature causing the cells called pericytes to die. This affects the blood flow to the cells and tissue of the extremities as these are supplied by the microvessels.

Diabetic Neuropathy

The nerves that are supplied by the microvessels are affected in diabetes because of the peripheral angiopathy in diabetics. These nerves are damaged and may die affecting the nerve function.

Prone to Infections

Generally, patients with type 1 diabetes are more prone to infections or have a tendency to form serious complications of the disease.

  • Patients are more prone to infections like foot infections, yeast infections, urinary tract infections and surgical site infections.
  • Yeast infections like Candida infections are more likely to colonize the mucous membranes of the mouth, vagina, nose in people with type 1 diabetes.

Slow Healing Wounds

People with diabetes are more adversely affected than normal people when they get infected because their immune responses are weakened, nerves are damaged and they have poor blood circulation making it difficult for the blood to reach the injured skin and wounds.

Diabetic Foot

Nerve damage in peripheries in type 1 diabetics often affects the sensation particularly the feet.

  • Lack of sensation means the feet injuries go unnoticed.
  • Diabetics are at a risk of developing foot ulcers.
  • Untreated injuries can lead to delay to dry cracked skin which can act as a point of entry for infectious agents into the body.

Genital Itching

Burning, redness or soreness around the genital areas.  Itching occurs because of yeast infection around the genitals. The high glucose content in the urine also provides a conducive environment for the yeast to thrive.

  • If you have type 1 diabetes and are experiencing itching around the genitals, then it may be an indication that your blood glucose levels may be higher, hence you should consult your medical advisor.]

Diabetic Retinopathy

A medical condition which causes damage to the retina of the eye also called diabetic eye disease. It’s one of the major complications of diabetes, seen in people with more than 20 years of diabetes and is a leading cause of blindness.

Diabetic Nephropathy

Chronic loss of kidney function.  The onset of symptoms is 5-10 years after the disease begins. The first symptom is frequent urination at night called nocturia. Other symptoms are tiredness, headache, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dry itchy skin and leg swelling.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis

A complication that occurs due to the production of ketones as a byproduct. The accumulation of ketones in the blood can cause the following symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting, a fruity odor of breath and urine, dehydration, deep breathing, rapid heart rate, confusion, and disorientation.


Recent studies claim that depression in children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes have been associated with negative diabetes-related health outcomes like poor glycemic control and recurrent diabetic ketoacidosis.  Studies indicate that the level of depressive symptoms in type 1 diabetic youth is double that of the general population.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Studies have reported that type 1 diabetics have a higher frequency of occurrence of upper gastrointestinal symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting than the general population.


A study has reported has a strong association between asthma and type 1 diabetes in a patient population in Europe.


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