DEFINITION--A chronic disease of metabolism characterized by the body's
inability to produce enough insulin to process carbohydrates, fat and protein efficiently.
Treatment requires injections of insulin. Insulin-dependent diabetes is often called
ketosis-prone diabetes if it begins in adulthood and juvenile diabetes if it begins in
BODY PARTS INVOLVED
- Islet cells of the pancreas that produce insulin.
- All body cells that need insulin to convert food into chemicals the body can use.
SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED--Usually begins before age 30; may begin at any age.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
- Fatigue; excess thirst.
- Increased appetite and weight loss.
- Frequent urination.
- Itching around the genitals.
- Increased susceptibility to infections, especially urinary-tract infections and yeast
infections of the skin, mouth or vagina.
- Too little insulin produced by the islet cells of the pancreas for unknown reasons.
- Interference with insulin use in the body cells for unknown reasons.
- Virus infection of the pancreas.
RISK INCREASES WITH
- Family history of diabetes mellitus. It often skips one generation.
HOW TO PREVENT--Cannot be prevented.
What To Expect
- Your own observation of symptoms.
- Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
- Laboratory urine and blood studies to measure glucose, cholesterol and insulin.
APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE
- Self-care after diagnosis.
- Doctor's treatment.
- Hospitalization for severe complications.
- Surgery for treatment of some complications, such as failing eyesight, gangrene or
- Regular foot care by a podiatrist and regular eye examination by a specialist.
- Cardiovascular disease, especially stroke, atherosclerosis and coronary-artery disease.
- Kidney failure.
- Peripheral vascular disease, with gangrene in legs and feet and sexual impotence in men.
- Life-threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) if too much insulin is used.
- Life-threatening ketoacidosis (very high blood sugar) with breakdown of body cells.
PROBABLE OUTCOME--This disease is presently considered incurable, but symptoms
and progress of the disease can be controlled with rigid adherence to treatment. Life
expect-ancy is somewhat reduced, but many persons with diabetes have a nearly normal life
How To Treat
- Learn all you can about controlling diabetes and recognizing signs and symptoms of
ketoacidosis or hypoglycemia. Learn the techniques of home monitoring of blood sugar.
- Keep a vial of glucagon available at all times to use if hypoglycemia occurs.
- Learn to give yourself insulin injections. They will be necessary every day for life.
- Wear a Medic-Alert bracelet or pendant (See Glossary).
- Seek medical treatment for any infection.
- See Resources for Additional Information.
MEDICATION--Your doctor will prescribe insulin by injection. The dosage must be
individualized and occasionally adjusted. Normal therapy is 2 or more injections per day
under the skin (subcutaneous).
- No restrictions. Exercise is an important part of controlling diabetes. Consult your
- Insulin dosage may need to be adjusted according to the planned physical activity.
Consult your doctor.
DIET--A special diet will be prescribed. A dietitian or nutritionist should be
Call Your Doctor If
- You have symptoms of diabetes mellitus.
- The following occurs during treatment: Inability to think clearly; weakness; sweating;
paleness; rapid heartbeat; seizures; or coma (may indicate hypoglycemia). Fruity odor on
the breath; changes in breathing pattern; or stupor (may indicate ketoacidosis) Several
days of illness or weakness. Numbness, tingling or pain in the feet or hands. Chest pain.