Health Check

Spot the signs of type 1 diabetes

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually occur suddenly and obviously. Understand what to look out for.

Written by Medibank
Teenage boy playing basketball

Type 1 diabetes is one of the most common chronic childhood conditions in Australia. And while it can develop at any age, it is more commonly diagnosed in childhood and adolescence1.

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is a condition where the pancreas stops producing insulin, the hormone that controls your blood sugar levels. It’s caused by an autoimmune disease, where your immune system mistakenly attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually occur suddenly and obviously. Some warning signs to look out for in you or your children include:

  • Feeling excessively thirsty
  • Urinating more often
  • Feeling hungry all the time
  • Losing weight for no reason
  • Blurred vision or feeling dizzy
  • Mood swings
  • Slow-healing wounds, itching and skin infections
  • Headaches
  • Leg cramps.

If you or your child is experiencing these symptoms, see your doctor for advice.

Managing type 1 diabetes

There is no cure for type 1 diabetes, but it can be managed through insulin injections, or an insulin pump and by regularly monitoring your blood sugar levels.

Eating well and exercise can also help to manage type 1 diabetes by helping to regulate your blood sugar levels.

The difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is much less common than type 2 diabetes. It accounts for about one in 10 diabetes cases in Australia .

While both are characterised by having higher than normal blood sugar levels there are some key differences.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. The immune system mistakenly attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. It tends to develop in childhood or adolescence and can only be managed through insulin injections.

With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas tends to produce some insulin, but it is either not enough, or the body’s cells stop responding the way they should. This is called insulin resistance. It tends to develop after the age of 45, and can often be managed through diet and lifestyle changes.

Read more: Are you at risk of type 2 diabetes?

1 Diabetes Australia,, accessed April 2020

Written by Medibank

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