Questions about Type 1 Diabetes? Perhaps we can help.

We receive many questions about Type 1 Diabetes. We hope that these answers will be helpful to you.

My child has Type 1 Diabetes. How can I help my child?   

Because Type 1 Diabetes leads to a loss of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, patients become dependent on receiving insulin injections on a daily basis to keep their glucose levels within a normal range. In addition, patients need to follow a personalized diet. Failure to follow these procedures can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which can cause temporary short-term symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, irritability, and delirium and if not managed appropriately, long term serious side effects, including kidney, heart, and vascular complications. Therefore, consultation with an endocrinologist (diabetes doctor) is critical for guidance during these life changing events. For a detailed response, please visit the JDRF website or your physician.

Is there a way to identify who is at risk of developing Type 1 Diabetes?   

In the United States, there is a ~0.4% lifetime risks of developing Type 1 Diabetes. This risk increases if there is a family history of a first degree relative with Type 1 Diabetes to 1-8%.

As a result of the efforts led by the late George Eisenbarth, a simple blood screen test that detects autoantibodies against islet autoantigens is now routinely used to identify individuals suspected of having Type 1 Diabetes.

This test can be done at the recommendation of a physician or endocrinologist. Once a patient knows that he/she is at risk of developing Type 1 Diabetes, the individual may be eligible to sign up to participate in NIH clinical trials. This test can be particularly useful for research purposes in screening relatives of Type 1 Diabetes patients and those carrying HLA susceptible genes to determine what others factors could contribute to the development of Type 1 Diabetes.

Is it possible to prevent Type 1 Diabetes?   

We believe that any ailment can be cured or controlled, including Type 1 Diabetes. Insulin is not a cure— there must be a better choice.

Therefore, the current pressing question is how to protect at-risk individuals. Scientists around the globe are working to develop modalities that will protect high-risk individuals from contracting the disease and to reverse it in newly-diagnosed patients. Discovery of successful biological reagents that can be used to protect high-risk individuals will significantly ease the pain of parents whose children are at risk and will eventually lower the disease incidence. Such modalities would ideally not impair a person's immune defenses and not require frequent administration.

Is prevention of Type 1 Diabetes a realistic goal?   

Yes. Significant advances have been made in understanding the disease process using mouse models. In addition, a large number of modalities can completely prevent the disease in mice and some even reverse the disease after its onset in the NOD (Non-Overweight Diabetic) mouse model. The challenge facing investigators is how to convert this wealth of knowledge into successful immunotherapies.

This research has been underway for several years now. Although the results so far have been less than satisfactory, the efforts are continuing tirelessly at several fronts. These include: (1) Analysis of collected data to understand why the outcomes of recent trials were not more robust; (2) Efforts to identify new targets in mice and assessing their relevance to the human disease; (3) Analysis of the disease process directly in humans, which is critical to bridge the gaps in our understanding the disease process in mice.

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