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What is type 1 diabetes?

There are 8.7 million people living with type 1 diabetes around the world, including over 400,000 people in the UK.
Content last reviewed and updated: 19.10.2023

What is type 1 diabetes and it being managed by checking a blood glucose meter

Type 1 diabetes is a serious autoimmune condition that occurs when your immune system malfunctions. Instead of protecting us from viruses and bacteria, our immune system begins attacking and destroying the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

When someone without type 1 eats or drinks, insulin moves the sugar in the food and drink (called glucose) from their blood into the cells of their body so that they can use it as energy. If you develop type 1 diabetes, beta cells in your pancreas fail to produce insulin. As a result, glucose levels in your blood start to rise, and your body can’t function unless you replace the insulin.

Type 1 diabetes isn’t caused by poor diet or an unhealthy lifestyle. In fact, it isn’t caused by anything that you did or didn’t do, and there was nothing you could have done to prevent it.

Is there a cure for type 1 diabetes?

There isn’t currently a cure for type 1 diabetes but we’re working on it. We fund researchers all over the world who are working as fast as they can to prevent the onset of type 1 diabetes, discover cures for people who already have type 1 and develop better treatments to help people live well with the condition.

What are the treatments for type 1 diabetes?

The main treatment for type 1 diabetes is insulin.

There is lots of technology available to help you measure your glucose levels and get insulin into your body. Find out more about treatments and technologies for type 1 diabetes.

What are the complications of type 1 diabetes?

Long-term, high and low glucose levels can cause complications including heart disease, kidney disease, problems with eyesight and loss of limbs. However, there are many things that can be done to help prevent and delay complications.

With the type 1 technology currently available and ongoing research to prevent, cure and treat type 1 diabetes, we hope that complications will one day become a thing of the past.

More about type 1 diabetes

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A man drinking a glass of water. One of the signs of type 1 diabetes is to be thirsty a lot.

What are the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes?

Find out more about the main signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes, which include tiredness, thirst, going to the toilet more frequently and weight loss.

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A woman doing a finger prick test to check blood glucose levels

What causes type 1 diabetes?

Scientists are currently investigating the genetic and environmental factors that may trigger your immune system to attack the beta cells in your pancreas, causing type 1 diabetes.

Read more
A woman with type 1 diabetes injecting insulin

What is the difference between type 1 and type two diabetes?

All types of diabetes cause blood glucose levels to be higher than normal. Find out about the key differences between the major types.