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Health Journey Support | Understanding Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a condition where your pancreas makes little or no insulin. This brochure will help you understand type 1 diabetes and why it's important to keep it under control.

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This information is intended for US Consumers

Understanding Type 1 Diabetes

If you or someone you know have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, this handout will help you understand what it is and why it's important to keep it under control.

Why Insulin is Important

Type 1 diabetes is a condition where your pancreas makes little or no insulin. Insulin is a chemical your body needs to keep your blood sugar at a normal level.

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Carbohydrates are the substances your body uses to make energy. After you eat food that contains carbohydrates, it eventually goes to your small intestine. There, the food is broken down into single sugar molecules, called glucose. The cells in your small intestine soak up the sugars, which pass into your bloodstream.

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When the blood reaches your pancreas, it detects the high amount of sugar in your blood. Normally, this causes your pancreas to put insulin into your bloodstream. The insulin reduces the amount of sugar in your blood to a healthy level.

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How Insulin Works

As the blood moves through your body, the insulin and sugar exit the bloodstream into your tissues to reach your cells.

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Insulin and sugar in the bloodstream

Most cells have structures on their surfaces called insulin receptors. When insulin flows by, it attaches to the receptor.

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The insulin acts like a key in a lock to open up the cell so the sugar can get inside.

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Now, your cell can use the sugar to make the energy it needs to work properly. And, your blood sugar level drops back to its normal range.

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When You Have Type 1 Diabetes

If you have type 1 diabetes, your pancreas loses its ability to make enough or any insulin. This can result in high blood sugar levels and other complications.

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In type 1 diabetes, your immune system attacks some cells in your pancreas by mistake. As a result, your pancreas makes little or no insulin.

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Without insulin, sugar cannot get into your cells. Without sugar, your cells don't have energy.

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And, since the sugar is locked out of your cells, it builds up to a high level in your bloodstream. This is a condition called hyperglycemia, which can lead to serious complications.

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If you have questions about type 1 diabetes or any medications you have been prescribed, speak with your doctor.

It is important to take your medications as directed by your doctor. Tell him or her about any side effects you have.

The information in this handout has been created and peer reviewed by graduate-level medical illustrators, followed by reviews from medical subject experts, either physicians or PhDs on the Nucleus Medical Review Board, to ensure medical accuracy and audience level appropriateness.

The handout is intended to supplement the information you receive from your healthcare provider and should never be considered personal medical advice. Always contact your healthcare provider with health questions and concerns.