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What is Insulin-Dependent Diabetes?

Insulin-dependent diabetes is a type of diabetes mellitus in which the body fails to produce enough insulin. Also known as type I diabetes, this condition usually has an early onset due to the loss of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. People with the disease require insulin on a daily basis, which is usually taken by injection. Other important parts of managing the condition include careful monitoring of blood sugar and diet.

Formerly known as juvenile diabetes because of its typically early onset, insulin-dependent diabetes is often diagnosed in childhood. For reasons that are not fully understood, insulin-dependent diabetes occurs because of an overactive immune response that targets the beta cells of the pancreas. Due to the destruction of these cells, individuals with type I diabetes make little or no insulin. Since the body's cells require insulin to absorb blood sugar, the lack of insulin results in high levels of circulating blood sugar, or blood glucose. This condition, which all people with insulin-dependent diabetes will have experienced, is called hyperglycemia.

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The most typical symptoms of insulin-dependent diabetes are a near constant thirst and frequent urination. Other signs of insulin-dependent diabetes, which usually appear at a young age, can include increased hunger, weakness, and blurred vision. People with insulin-dependent diabetes often lose weight before they are diagnosed with the disease, because calories from glucose are excreted in urine rather than used for energy. Other warning signs include delayed wound healing, more frequent illnesses, and tingling in the hands and feet.

There are a few different types of tests used to diagnose type I diabetes. One of the most common is a fasting blood glucose test, which can show whether blood sugar is consistently too high. A random test of blood glucose can indicate whether hyperglycemia is present, even when levels should normally be higher, like after eating. Blood glucose levels are measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL), with normal levels being less than 100 mg/dL.

Type I diabetes can have a negative influence on other bodily systems that may lead to a number of complications. People with diabetes are at an increased risk of heart disease, probably due to the effects of long-term hyperglycemia. Cardiovascular disease increases the risk of stroke and heart attack, including atypical heart attacks with fewer symptoms. Diabetes can also cause nerve damage, leading to a loss of vision or the loss of sensation in the hands, feet, or legs.

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