Type 1 diabetes is often thought of as a disease that’s only diagnosed in children and teenagers. But that couldn’t be further from the truth: around 8 Australians are diagnosed with the disease every day, and almost half of them are over the age of 19.
This World Diabetes Day (November 14, 2022), JDRF is raising awareness of the signs of type 1 diabetes (T1D) to help Australians recognise the symptoms of this potentially fatal illness, ensuring those affected will get the diagnosis and treatment they need to lead a happy, healthy life.
While the symptoms vary from person to person, the first signs usually include the ‘Four Ts’.
One of the first early symptoms of T1D is increased thirst. If left untreated it can cause dehydration, which can then lead to nausea, dizziness, headaches, fainting, and eventually diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially fatal condition.
People with undiagnosed T1D can lose a lot of weight very quickly. This is because their bodies don’t properly process the sugar they eat, and they expel it in their urine instead of absorbing it.
Needing to pee more often can be a sign there’s something not quite right – and in people with T1D, frequent loo breaks aren’t only caused by all the increased drinking. When a healthy person’s kidneys create urine, they reabsorb all the sugar and direct it back to the bloodstream. But in people who live with T1D, excess glucose ends up in the kidneys; the glucose pulls more water and then creates more urine. (This can also show up as bed wetting in a previously dry child, or heavier nappies in babies.)
Feeling more tired and lethargic than usual is a common sign of T1D – particularly when seen with other symptoms.
Other common type 1 diabetes symptoms include:
– Fruity breath: If your breath smells sweet (or like fruit) it could be caused by high level of ketones in the blood, a sign of T1D.
– Blurred vision: Having high blood sugar levels can pull fluid from your tissues, including the lenses of your eyes. As a result, you might notice you can’t focus very well.
– Diabetic ketoacidosis: If you have very high blood glucose levels for a long period of time it can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA happens when the body starts to burn fat and body tissue for energy, and needs immediate treatment.
If you have any concerns about any of the above symptoms, see your GP. They can perform a simple test to diagnose T1D.
T1D is often misdiagnosed at its early stages, and if left untreated it can lead to potentially fatal DKA. Knowing the signs and requesting the test from your GP – and standing up for your rights to have that test – could save a life. 
JDRF has developed a guide for adults living with type 1 diabetes. The book covers all aspects of T1D treatment and management, as well as offering practical advice on balancing T1D with your social life, travel, work, mental health and more. The guide is free to download here.
About JDRF
JDRF is the world’s largest funder of T1D research. Through its pillars of research, advocacy, community and fundraising, the organisation is dedicated to improving the lives of the 125,000 Australians who are affected by T1D, and in finding a cure for this insidious disease.
Find more information at jdrf.org.au.
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