Diabetes Services

Type 1 Diabetes

The clinicians at University Hospitals Diabetes & Obesity Center are experts at diagnosing and treating type 1 diabetes. As partners in your care, we will help guide you as you learn to manage your condition, troubleshoot potential complications, and optimize your wellness goals.

Make an Appointment

To schedule a consult with a diabetes and obesity specialist, please call 216-286-8988.

Find a Doctor

Type 1 diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes, is most often diagnosed in children, teens and young adults. However, it can develop at any age. Type 1 diabetes is much less common than type 2 diabetes, which usually develops in adults.

In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not make insulin or makes very little insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate the amount of glucose in the blood and supplies the body with energy. Without insulin, blood glucose, or sugar, cannot reach cells and builds up in the bloodstream. High blood sugars can damage the body and may lead to complications associated with type 1 diabetes. These include heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, foot issues, oral health issues, and hearing and vision problems.

There is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes; however, the condition is managed by taking insulin and establishing healthy diabetes self-management routines. People with type 1 diabetes can continue to have active and everyday lives.

What Causes Type 1 Diabetes

Experts believe type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune response in which the body attacks the cells in the pancreas that are responsible for making insulin. Some people have a genetic predisposition to developing type 1 diabetes, though not everyone with these genetic traits will develop diabetes. Being exposed to environmental triggers may also play a role in the development of type 1 diabetes. However, a person's weight, diet and lifestyle do not play a role in the onset of type 1 diabetes.

Risk Factors

Factors that can increase a person’s risk for type 1 diabetes include:

  • Family history: If you have a parent or sibling with type 1 diabetes, you have a slightly higher risk of developing the condition, however, 80% of people with type 1 diabetes have no known family history.
  • Genetics: Certain genetic mutations and sequences can increase the risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
  • Age: Although it can develop at any age and presents up to 40% of the time during adulthood, type 1 diabetes tends to first appear in people from two distinct age groups:
    • Children between ages 4 and 7
    • Children between ages 10 and 14
  • Geography: The number of people with type 1 diabetes tends to increase the farther away from the equator you travel.
  • Certain viral Infections and environmental factorsare thought to be associated with the onset of type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms

The onset of type 1 diabetes symptoms can be sudden and severe. You should consult your physician if you experience symptoms such as:

  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Increased thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Nausea, vomiting, or stomach pains
  • Extreme hunger
  • Blurry vision
  • Numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Fatigue
  • Very dry skin
  • Sores that heal slowly
  • Frequent infections

Diagnosing Type 1 Diabetes

Your physician can diagnose diabetes through a variety of blood tests. If your doctor suspects type 1 diabetes, your blood may be tested for specific autoantibodies to confirm the diagnosis. Also, your urine may be tested for ketones, which are large protein molecules often found when the body's cells are not getting enough glucose. A positive result for either of these laboratory tests may distinguish type 1 diabetes from type 2.

Type 1 Diabetes Management

Type 1 diabetes is managed daily by the individual, but with the help and guidance from their medical team. People with type 1 diabetes must give themselves insulin injections, usually three or more times a day, to manage their blood sugars. Insulin can be delivered in various ways, including drawing up insulin from a vial and syringe, using a pre-filled insulin pen with pen cap needles, or an insulin pump. The diabetes clinicians at UH will work with each patient to determine insulin doses and the best delivery method considering individual lifestyles and insurance coverage.

Monitoring Blood Sugar

People with type 1 diabetes also need to regularly check their blood sugars to ensure they are in a healthy range. Checking your blood glucose gives the person more information to manage diabetes throughout the day. Two devices used to monitor blood sugars are either a continuous glucose monitor or a blood glucose meter. These devices help individuals learn how different things affect blood sugar levels like food, physical activity, medication, stress and much more. Blood sugar readings are often used to adjust insulin doses throughout the day. Your doctor will help determine how often you need to check your blood sugars and develop individualized glucose targets. Keeping your blood sugar levels as close to the target as possible will help prevent or delay any diabetes-related complications.

Lifestyle Habits

Lifestyle routines are also an essential aspect of diabetes self-management, including eating healthfully, medication management, adequate sleep, weight management, physical activity and stress reduction.

The diabetes team at UH can provide each patient with extensive diabetes education and create support structures to help manage their type 1 diabetes. They will walk patients through every step of insulin administration, blood sugar monitoring, lifestyle modifications, create healthy goals, and answer any questions along the way.

Low Blood Sugar Warning Signs

You will also learn about the warning signs of blood sugar that is too low, which can sometimes happen in insulin-requiring diabetes. Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can be dangerous if not treated right away. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Hunger
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Shakiness
  • Stubbornness or anger
  • Sweating, chills, or clamminess
  • Weakness or fatigue

Talk to your doctor if you experience frequent bouts of low blood sugar. The provider may be able to adjust your treatment routines to help minimize or prevent hypoglycemia episodes.

University Hospitals Diabetes & Obesity Center: Expert Management of Diabetes & Related Disorders

Led by an experienced team of clinicians and scientists, the University Hospitals Diabetes & Obesity Center provides ongoing care, management, and education for diabetes, obesity and related conditions. Our talented team of compassionate specialists includes endocrinologists, diabetes care and education specialists, weight loss specialists, nurse practitioners and specialty pharmacists.

Learn more