Type 1 diabetes is the failure of the pancreas to produce and secrete insulin. Children with type 1 diabetes require multiple shots of insulin throughout the day (and often night) to maintain their blood sugar in a range that is safe. Without insulin, type 1 diabetes is universally fatal.
People are not born with type 1 diabetes, rather it develops at some point. Often it’s the body’s own immune system that begins attacking the insulin secreting cells of the pancreas, killing them. Who develops type 1 diabetes is a complex interaction between genetics, the body’s immune system, and environmental influences, such as viruses.
Type 1 diabetes is NOT related to what a child eats. Similarly it is not caused by lack of physical activity or lifestyle. There is nothing a parent or child can do to prevent the development of type 1 diabetes. Those families in which a parent or sibling has type 1 diabetes should discuss with their doctor the risk of another family member becoming affected.
Type 1 diabetes is not contagious.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, January 2020