Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes, previously known as juvenile or early-onset diabetes, is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin. Located in the pancreas, these cells are called beta cells.
Although less common than type 2 diabetes, type 1 can be more severe and requires daily treatment with insulin injections. Type 1 diabetes accounts for 10 – 15% of cases of diabetes worldwide. That means, globally, about 20 million people live with type 1 diabetes.
Currently, there is no cure or preventative measure for type 1 diabetes. Affected individuals are dependent for the rest of their lives on regular injections of insulin to control their blood glucose levels. Insulin lets people manage their diabetes, but the control of blood glucose is never perfect, pre-disposing to complications in the longer term.
Complications include kidney problems (diabetic nephropathy), visual impairment (diabetic retinopathy) and nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy), due to damage to the small blood vessels. Larger vessels can be damaged too, leading to coronary artery disease (which causes angina and “heart attack”), stroke and narrowing of the limb arteries.
Type 1 diabetes is a burden for everyone and in poorer countries sufferers have to pay the full cost for their insulin to survive.
Research in the past few years indicates that it may be possible to prevent or delay the onset of type 1 diabetes. The Type 1 Diabetes Prevention Trial is a major Australian clinical trial to determine if a insulin nasal vaccine can prevent type 1 diabetes.