Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

by Michael_Koger

Type I diabetes mellitus is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood.

Type I diabetes mellitus is a serious medical condition in which there is an immune destruction of certain pancreatic cells which produce insulin. Naturally, these clients are not able to produce enough of their own insulin, and this leads to extraordinarily high levels of the blood sugar unless they take exogenous insulin injections [1, 2].

It has, over the decades, had other names such as Juvenile Onset Diabetes Mellitus and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. This is because these patients have generally acquired their diagnosis in the childhood or adolescent years, and since they do not produce enough endogenous insulin, they become dependent on insulin which a physician prescribes for them
[1, 2].

Those who have type 1 diabetes mellitus will require insulin for treatment as this is the only agent which the United States Food and Drug Administration has approved for its management. Additionally, the use of that medication will be for the lifetime [2].

Onset of the Disease

One of the dilemmas of this medical condition is that there may be confusion over the diagnosis.  Specifically, many people who have a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes mellitus, which doctors previously called Adult Onset Diabetes Mellitus or non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, do in fact have type 1 [1, 2].

Actually, the diagnosis of type 1 can take place at any age, but most get their diagnosis around ages 5 through 7 or at puberty.  Without question, the discovery of this illness in people across the globe has increased over the last several decades.  In many cases, the patient gets the initial diagnosis when he or she suffers an episode of life-threatening diabetic ketoacidosis [1, 2].

Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs when there is insufficient or no insulin available in the bloodstream to control the blood sugar.  The result is very high serum glucose levels of perhaps 500 to 700 milligrams percent, and the presence of poisonous substances in the bloodstream.  These chemicals are ketones, and the blood becomes acidic [3]. 

The client has a fruity odor of the breath, and other distressing clinical signs and symptoms occur.  These may include shortness of breath, mental status change, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and headache.  Diabetic ketoacidosis can lead to coma and death unless the patient receives insulin therapy in a hospital as well as vigorous intravenous fluid replacement to resolve the dehydration [3].

The presence of another medical condition will place stress on the human body, and it may be somewhat responsible for the episode of diabetic ketoacidosis.  For example, an infectious ailment may trigger a dramatic elevation of the blood sugar in these clients.  It may also occur in type 2 diabetes, but in most instances this will afflict those who have type 1 diabetes mellitus [3].

Moreover, the occurrence of diabetic ketoacidosis is common in those who do not regularly take their insulin [3].


Diabetes mellitus, whether type 1 or 2, is a well-known public health problem across the globe, and patient education with regular medical care are necessary to afford the best prognosis.


  1. Atkinson, M., Eisenbarth, G., and Michels, A.  (2014).  Type 1 diabetes.  Lancet, 383, 69-82.
  2. Simmons, K. and Michels, A.  (2015).  Type 1 diabetes:  A predictable disease.  World Journal of Diabetes, 6, 380-390.
  3. U. S. National Library of Medicine.  Medline Plus.  (2014).  Diabetic ketoacidosis.
  4. The photo is of a library at the United States Centers for Disease Control and is reprinted with permission from that organization.


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact their physician for advice.

Updated: 08/02/2015, Michael_Koger
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