- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Is There a Cure for Type 1 Diabetes (Juvenile Diabetes)?
Can Type 1 Diabetes be Reversed?
Since 2003, I have been living with Type 1 diabetes, also known as "juvenile diabetes," even though I was 34 when I was diagnosed.
In case you were wondering, this is the "bad" type of diabetes for which there is currently no cure and the patient becomes insulin-dependent for life.
It requires testing my blood glucose 4-6 times daily, counting carbohydrates, estimating how to account for the impacts of illness, stress, exercise, lack of sleep, etc. on my levels, as well. One small slip up can lead to debilitating hypoglycemia and even lack of consciousness. Uncontrolled blood glucose levels may result in retinopathy, other nerve damage, loss of limbs, and in some cases, death from ketoacidoisis (a condition where blood becomes acidic due to the breakdown of muscle when the body is starved for energy).
Over the past decade, I have read numerous, promising articles about a cure for Type 1 diabetes. As of today, there is one procedure that can temporarily "reverse" the disease with transplanted islet cells into the patient's pancreas. But there is still no permanent cure that has been discovered for Type 1 diabetes, even though it affects 3 million people in the United States alone. Approximately 80 people are diagnosed each day with Type 1 diabetes. More than 15,000 children receive the devastating news that they have juvenile diabetes each year.
Groups like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation ("JDRF") have been leading fundraising efforts for many years in the hopes of discovering a cure for Type 1 diabetes. We're not there yet, but hopefully continued research will soon lead to finding a cure for this life-threatening illness.
Do You Know the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?
What Causes Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes (T1D), like many other auto-immune disorders (Graves Disease, Chrone's Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, etc.) is triggered by a life event and/or illness which - in a susceptible person - sets off an overreaction by the body's immune system, which mistakes healthy cells for threatening ones.
When you have an autoimmune disorder, your body can't tell the difference between healthy tissue and antigens. As a result, an immune response occurs, destroying normal/healthy tissues. Think of it as akin to an allergic reaction due to hypersensitivity, but at a much worse level.
With T1D, the immune system attacks and kills off so-called "beta cells" in the pancreas that create insulin. Insulin is a hormone that we cannot live without. It acts to "unlock" cells to allow energy in blood glucose to provide energy. Without sufficient insulin, blood sugar levels build up, the patient is unable to convert food to useful energy, and lethargy, weight loss, blurred vision and constant thirst, among other things result. It is life-threatening.
Unlike Type 2 diabetes, T1D comes on suddenly, without warning. Patients and relatives of patents often miss the warning signs of diabetes because they usually have no reason to worry about developing the more common type of diabetes: Type 2.
Causes of juvenile diabetes are not yet entirely understood, but scientists believe that genetic factors and environmental triggers (e.g. viruses, etc.) may be involved. Rest assured that neither diet nor lifestyle is a cause of the disease. As of the date of this hub, there is nothing that anyone can do to prevent Type 1 diabetes, nor cure it.
Islet Cell Transplants are Currently the Closest Thing to a Viable (but Temporary) Cure for Type 1 Diabetes
A Primer on Type 1 Diabetes
Why Do I Keep Hearing About a Cure for Diabetes?
I get so frustrated when someone suggests to me that I have been remiss in my treatment of diabetes, and did I not know there are "cures" out there?
Trust me - I would like nothing more than to learn that there is a real, viable cure for Type 1 diabetes. Just do an Internet or YouTube search and your results will be plentiful and filled with advice. For example, just avoid dairy, eat raw food, add cinnamon to everything, go gluten-free, try this supplement or these injections, and you will be cured.
But consider this: if there truly was a cure for Type 1 diabetes, don't you think it would be reported in mainstream media? Would not the millions of people that suffer from the disease be talking to their doctors and immediately implementing these "cures" for diabetes?
T1D is not reversible by diet or lifestyle. Period.
Unless and until there is a viable medical intervention, whether medication, surgery or both, people with juvenile diabetes will be relegated to a life-time of finger pricking, administering insulin and constantly monitoring how blood glucose levels are affected by daily activity levels, illnesses, hormonal swings, even things as minor as a sunburn.
We need a cure for Type 1 diabetes!
A 6-Year Old's Type 1 Diabetes Story: the Impact of the Disease and Necessity for a Cure
How Much Do You Know About a Cure for Type 1 Diabetes?
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Why Do We Need a Cure for Type 1 Diabetes?
I can attest that no day in the life of a T1D patient is the same. Even if you eat exactly the same thing every day for the rest of your life and keep detailed logs in an effort to determine what it is, exactly, that causes swings in blood glucose levels, there is still the risk that you may experience extremes between low and high levels that can be dangerous, at best, and even life-threatening.
It is beyond frustrating trying to keep levels in balance and avoid the numerous complications associated with diabetes. Yet, for me, a diagnosis in my mid-30s was definitely a better time in my life for handling the challenges associated with Type 1 diabetes.
Many of the people diagnosed with juvenile diabetes are children. They are too young to manage the disease on their own. As shown in the video above, parents, teachers, coaches and other instructors all must know the signs of high or low blood sugar and how to treat it. Kids need assistance in measuring blood glucose levels. They usually cannot calculate a proper dosage of insulin on their own. Throw in exercise, growth spurts, and more and managing T1D for a child and his or her family is exhausting.
Frustration aside, people with T1D have a lower life expectancy and they risk complications such as nerve damage, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and more.
It is important to remember that insulin injections or infusions allow a person with T1D to stay alive, but they do not cure the disease. Insulin is a treatment - not a cure.
© 2014 Stephanie Hicks