What are the symptoms of type 1 diabetes?

A person with type 1 diabetes may experience the following symptoms:

  • urinating frequently and in large amounts
  • dehydration and drinking fluids excessively (but staying continually thirsty, no matter how much is drunk)
  • weight loss — as the body makes little or no insulin, glucose can not be taken up into the body’s cells or stored; this means that the body has to use stored fat to provide cells with energy
  • ketoacidosis, a build up of acids in the blood and a potentially serious complication of type 1 diabetes.

Ketoacidosis develops when glucose (a type of sugar) can’t be taken up into the cells of people with diabetes, so the body has to use stored fat to provide cells with energy. When ketones, the natural breakdown products of fat, build up in the body, they make your breath smell fruity and cause acid to build up in the blood, leading to ketoacidosis. In very severe cases, ketoacidosis may cause coma and death if it is not treated. About one-quarter (25%) of people with undiagnosed type 1 diabetes develop ketoacidosis by the time their diabetes is recognised.

How do I know I have type 1 diabetes?

People with type 1 diabetes are usually first diagnosed with diabetes after suddenly developing the classic symptoms of needing to urinate frequently, experiencing increased thirst and hunger, or having an episode of hypoglycaemia.

Once diabetes has been diagnosed based on the results of blood glucose tests, the type of diabetes (type 1 or type 2 diabetes) will need to be identified. A person’s family history of diabetes, age, body weight, symptoms, details of health problems and medicines being taken — and some laboratory tests for diabetes — will all help a doctor to make a correct diagnosis of the type of diabetes.

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