Why Do Type 1 Diabetics Lose Weight Before a Diagnosis?

Why Do Type 1 Diabetics Lose Weight Before a DiagnosisWhy Do Type 1 Diabetics Lose Weight Before a Diagnosis: In order to answer this question we need to know something about muscle function in the human body.

Normal glucose levels allow all parts of the body to gain access to the energy to drive the body forward and do all the things the body was designed to do. When blood glucose levels are low the body has it’s own defense system and it can create small amounts of what are known as ketone bodies.  Ketone is flushed into the blood stream and used by the brain for emergency functions.

This phenomenon is most noted in countries where starvation is common. The bodies of men, women and children who do not have enough to eat will be able to carry on for a period of time using these ketone reserves. However, these reserves come at a price.

If the body is starved for blood glucose long enough it will begin to dismantle muscle mass to create ketone for body function. This is why you will routinely see very thin arm and legs when viewing pictures of those who are starving. The brain requires a significant amount of fuel to remain functional so in starvation conditions it will effectively demand the full time production of ketone when blood glucose is unavailable as a fuel.

When there is no fuel to develop muscles the body has been programmed to use those muscles to develop emergency energy. This condition isn’t exclusive to starvation.

Type 1 Diabetes and Ketones
Proper insulin regulation can negate the need for the body to create large quantities of ketone, but without insulin conditions can change rapidly. When a Type 1 diabetic (pre-diagnosed) runs low on blood sugar it creates an environment that can develop into what is called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

Wikipedia suggests the following symptoms are common among Type 1 diabetics who have DKA.

  • Sluggishness, extreme tiredness.
  • Extreme thirst, despite large fluid intake.
  • Constant urination
  • Fruity smell to breath, similar to nail polish remover (acetone).
  • Hyperventilation, at first rapid and shallow, then progressively deeper and less rapid.
  • Extreme weight loss.
  • Oral Thrush and/or persistent vaginal yeast infections may be present; this is because the normal fungal flora present in the oral cavity and cervix is disrupted
  • Muscle wasting.
  • Agitation / Irritation / Aggression / Confusion
  • Vomiting, nausea
  • Extreme pain in shoulders, neck and chest

Parents of pre-diagnosed Type 1 diabetic children may actually believe that their child may be drunk.

When an individual expresses symptoms of DKA it may be preceded by noticeable weight loss. Again, the reason this is true is that the body is dealing with a lack of blood glucose and has been feasting on keton created by the consumption of muscle mass.

Many Type 1 diabetics discover their condition following an initial diagnosis of DKA. The diagnosis of DKA accounts for about 25% of subsequent Type 1 diabetes diagnoses.

If not treated right away Wikipedia suggests the following conditions may occur.

  • Emesis (vomiting), although this is not always a sign of late-stage ketoacidosis, and can occur both in early-stage ketoacidosis and in non-ketoacidic hyperglycaemia.
  • Confusion.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Flu-like symptoms.
  • Lethargy and apathy.
  • Extreme weakness.
  • Kussmaul breathing (“air hunger”). A type of hyperventilation where patients breathe very deeply at a normal or increased rate. This is a sign of severe acidosis.
  • Unconsciousness (a variety of diabetic coma) after prolonged DKA. At this stage, speedy medical attention is imperative.
  • Death

Although complications can result in death most cases of DKA respond well to treatment and are able to fully recover.

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