Type 1 diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is essentially an autoimmune disease. This is a kind of disease where the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys its own cells. Normally, the basic function of the immune system is to protect the body from the onslaught of invading bacteria, viruses and other potentially harmful foreign substances. But in the case of Type 1 diabetes, the immune system strikes an assault at the beta cells in the pancreas which are responsible for producing insulin. The persistent immune attacks will eventually result in considerable damage to the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, leading to severely dysfunctional carbohydrate metabolic process.
Type 1 diabetes was formerly called juvenile onset diabetes because children are the ones that are most often seen to develop this form of the disease. However, type 1 diabetes has been seen to gradually develop in mature people as well. While it is clear that the immune system is implicated in the destruction of beta cells, the exact biological mechanism in the development of the disease still evades many scientists.
Genetic predisposition has been thought of as a major risk factor for Type 1 diabetes. Scientists are looking at possible gene variants that may provide a better understanding of how the disease advances and what would be potential targets for treatment. Several researches also hint that insulin itself may be the trigger for the immune system’s attacks against beta cells. Diet in particular infant nutrition, chemical exposure and viral or microbial infections are also being studied as contributory factors to the progression of the disease.
Persons suffering from Type 1 diabetes become dependent on insulin injections to support the inadequate production or lack of insulin in the body. For this reason the disease is also called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM).