Insulin-Dependent Diabetes

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for educational purposes only. It should not be used for diagnostic or
treatment purposes. If you wish to obtain more information about this
disorder, please contact your personal physician and/or the agencies
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Insulin-dependent Diabetes is a disorder in which the body does not
produce enough insulin and is, therefore, unable to convert nutrients
into the energy necessary for daily activity. The disorder affects
females and males approximately equally. Although the causes of
insulin-dependent diabetes are not known, genetic factors seem to play a


Normally, sugars and starches (carbohydrates) in the foods we eat are
processed by digestive juices into glucose. Glucose circulates in
the blood as a major energy source for body functions. Its use is
regulated primarily by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas gland
(located behind the stomach). In the person with diabetes, there is
a malfunction in the production of insulin. There are two main types
of diabetes: Type I or Insulin-Dependent and Type II or

The insulin-dependent type of diabetes generally has onset during
childhood or adolescence, though it can occur at any age. Because
the pancreas supplies little or no insulin in this disease, daily
injections of the hormone and a controlled diet are necessary to
regulate blood sugar levels. Insulin is generally effective in
preventing glucose buildup, but it is a treatment and not a cure for

The onset of Insulin-Dependent Diabetes begins with frequent
urination, extreme thirst, constant hunger, and unexplained weight
loss. Because people with Type I Diabetes lack sufficient
insulin, glucose accumulates in the blood to levels too high for the
kidneys to excrete. In an effort to remove the excess sugar, the kidneys
excrete large amounts of water as well as essential body elements
resulting in frequent urination, thirst, and weakness. Hunger and
fatigue are caused by the body\'s inability to utilize foods properly
for nourishment and energy. To find alternate sources of energy, the
body turns to its stores of fat and protein, causing weight loss and
the accumulation of fat breakdown products (acetone and related
acids) in the blood. These metabolites of fat produce increased acidity
of the blood, and a potentially fatal condition (ketoacidosis) can
result if treatment is not prompt.

A child with Type I Diabetes may also fail to grow and develop
normally. Diabetics of all ages may experience itching of the skin,
changes in vision, and slow healing of cuts and bruises. Medical
attention should be sought if any of these symptoms occur.

The diabetic condition can result in certain long-term
complications which may involve many organs of the body. The blood
vessels, nervous system, kidneys and eyes are particularly affected.
While successful control of blood glucose levels may reduce the risk of
complications, the exact relationship between these factors is not
fully understood. Studies are being conducted to determine whether
strict blood glucose control plays a significant role in preventing or
delaying the onset of complications resulting from diabetes.

1. Cardiovascular Complications.
Heart and blood vessel diseases such as heart attack, hardening of
the arteries (arteriosclerosis), and stroke are the leading causes of
illness, disability and death among diabetics. Persons with
diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from coronary heart disease
and stroke and five times as likely to suffer from arterial disease of
the limbs than the non-diabetic population. Exactly how diabetes
damages the cardiovascular system is not yet clear.

2. Diabetic Nephropathy (Kidney Disease).
Kidney (renal) disease, or diabetic nephropathy, can be a serious
complication of diabetes. Normally, the kidneys cleanse
impurities from the blood, but diabetes can cause damage to the blood
vessels in the kidney and interfere with this vital process. A
procedure called hemodialysis is frequently used to remove waste
products from the blood when the kidneys can no longer perform this
function adequately. Diabetics with serious renal disease may also be
candidates for a kidney transplant if a suitable donor organ is

3. Diabetic Neuropathy (damage to the nerves).
Diabetes can also cause a complication called Diabetic Neuropathy which
is damage to the peripheral nerves. These nerves run throughout the
body, connecting the spinal cord to muscles, skin, blood vessels, and all
other organs. Most importantly, they serve as the primary link between
the central nervous system and the entire body. Diabetes is a common
cause of peripheral neuropathy; however, this condition can also result
from injury, alcoholism, or other factors. Almost all people with
diabetes eventually develop some peripheral nerve involvement, but for
many, it is slight and produces no symptoms. For the 10 to 25 percent
who suffer from serious