What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder and occurs when the body’s autoimmune system accidentally attacks and destroys insulin producing cells in the pancreas.

People with type 1 diabetes depend on insulin every day of their lives to replace the insulin the body cannot produce. They must test their blood glucose levels several times throughout the day.

What happens if people with type 1 diabetes don’t receive insulin?

Without insulin the body burns its own fats as a substitute which releases chemical substances in the blood. Without ongoing injections of insulin, the dangerous chemical substances will accumulate and can be life threatening if it is not treated. This is a condition call ketoacidosis.

What causes type 1 diabetes?

The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is not yet known, but we do know it cannot be prevented. We also know that it has nothing to do with lifestyle, although maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very important in helping to manage type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes usually develops in childhood or young adulthood, although it can occur at any age.

A person is diagnosed with diabetes every 5 minutes

Do I have type 1 diabetes?


Type 1 diabetes represents 10 to 15% of all cases of diabetes in Australia.

The onset is usually abrupt and symptoms can include::

  • Being excessively thirsty
  • Passing more urine
  • Feeling tired and lethargic
  • Always feeling hungry
  • Having cuts that heal slowly
  • Itching, skin infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Leg cramps.

If any of these symptoms occur see a doctor. Through a simple test, a doctor can find out if they’re the result of type 1 diabetes.

Management, care and treatment

Type 1 diabetes is managed with insulin injections several times a day or the use of an insulin pump. While your lifestyle choices didn’t cause type 1 diabetes, the choices you make now can reduce the impact of diabetes-related complications including kidney disease, limb amputation and blindness.

You find more information on managing diabetes here.