Diabetes 101 - Ask The Pharmacist

Jul 31, 2014
Specialist pharmacists can provide insights to help patients understand and manage Type 1 diabetes.
  • Diabetes
  • Children
  • Teenagers

Diabetes is one of the most prevalent diseases in the U.S. today and one of the most expensive to treat.

There are three types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes – previously called juvenile onset diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes – accounts for 5% to 10% of diabetes cases in the U.S. and occurs mostly in children and young adults. The SEARCH study showed 0.78 per 1,000 children under the age of 10 have diabetes and 80% of these cases are Type 1 diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. Between 90% and 95% of people with diabetes have Type 2, previously referred to as noninsulin dependent or adult onset diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes is the third type and affects pregnant women.

Of the three types of diabetes, Type 1 is the least common, resulting in less awareness about the disease. Specialist pharmacists in the Express Scripts Diabetes Therapeutic Resource Center® provide counseling for patients to best manage their diabetes. In addition, the following information will help you better understand Type 1 diabetes.

Definition: Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, which then produces little or no insulin. A person with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily to live.

At present, scientists do not know exactly what causes the body’s immune system to attack the beta cells, but they believe that autoimmune, genetic, environmental factors and possibly viruses are involved.


Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes usually develop over a short period, although beta cell destruction can begin years earlier. Symptoms may include increased thirst and urination, constant hunger, weight loss, blurred vision and extreme fatigue. If not diagnosed and treated with insulin, a person with Type 1 diabetes can lapse into a life-threatening diabetic coma, also known as diabetic ketoacidosis.

Manage the Condition

Healthy eating, physical activity and taking insulin are the basic therapies for Type 1 diabetes. The amount of insulin must be balanced with food intake and daily activities. Blood glucose levels must be closely monitored through frequent blood glucose checking. People with diabetes also monitor blood glucose levels several times a year with a laboratory test called an A1C. Results of the A1C test reflect average blood glucose levels over a two-month to three-month period.

Relatives of someone with Type 1 diabetes have a 15 times greater chance of also having the condition.

Manage Other Risk Factors

Adults with diabetes are at high risk for cardiovascular disease. In fact, at least 65% of those with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels can be managed through a healthy diet, physical activity and medication, if necessary. Aspirin therapy, if recommended by a person’s healthcare team, and smoking cessation can also help lower risks.

The goal of diabetes management is to keep levels of blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol as close to the normal range as safely possible. A major study, the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial, sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, showed that keeping blood glucose levels close to normal reduces the risk of developing major complications of Type 1 diabetes.

Day-to-day care for Type 1 patients also involves managing their blood sugar to avoid hypoglycemia, which occurs when the blood glucose levels drop too low.

Get the Right Diagnosis

An individual who has a relative with Type 1 diabetes has a 15 times greater chance of also having this type of diabetes. Although symptoms seem to appear suddenly, research has found that the potential risk can be detected years before symptoms appear. This provides a window of opportunity when steps can be taken to delay or prevent the disease.

For more information on screening, visit www.DiabetesTrialNet.org.

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