Frequently Asked Questions

About the Disease:

Daily Life and Management:

Research:

JDRF:

About the Disease

What are the different types of diabetes?

Type 1 (T1D, insulin-dependent or juvenile) Type 1 diabetes (T1D) can occur at any age, but most commonly is diagnosed from infancy to the late 30s. In this type of diabetes, a person’s pancreas produces little or no insulin. T1D occurs when the body’s own defense system (the immune system) attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. People with T1D must inject insulin several times every day or continually infuse insulin through a pump.

While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing you can do to prevent T1D, and-at present-nothing you can do to get rid of it.

Type 2 (T2D, non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset) Type 2 diabetes typically develops after age 40, but can appear earlier, and has recently begun to appear with more frequency in children. In this form of diabetes, the pancreas still produces insulin, but the body does not produce enough or is not able to use it effectively.  Treatment includes diet control, exercise, self-monitoring of blood glucose and, in some cases, oral drugs or insulin.

Gestational Diabetes About 2 to 10 percent of pregnant women develop high blood sugar during pregnancy. Although this type of diabetes usually disappears after the birth of the baby, women who have had gestational diabetes are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

LADA or Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA) T1D diagnosed in adults over 30 may be Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA), sometimes known as Type 1.5 Diabetes. LADA is often misdiagnosed as type 2 diabetes because of age, however people with LADA do not have insulin resistance like those with type 2. LADA is characterized by age, a gradual increase in insulin necessity, positive antibodies, low C-peptide, lack of family history of type 2 diabetes, and insulin resistance medications being ineffective. Treatment for LADA is the same as for type 1 diabetes.

Monogenic Diabetes Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are polygenic diseases, meaning the risk of developing these forms of diabetes is related to multiple genes. But some rare forms of diabetes result from mutations in a single gene and are called monogenic; they are sometimes mistaken for type 1. Learn more at uchicago.edu and diabetesgenes.org.

What are the symptoms of type 1 diabetes (T1D)?

The symptoms may occur suddenly, and include one or more of the following:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Drowsiness, lethargy
  • Sugar in urine
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Increased appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Fruity, sweet, or wine-like odor on breath
  • Heavy, labored breathing
  • Stupor, unconsciousness

If you think you or your child has diabetes, call a doctor immediately, and drink fluids WITHOUT SUGAR, if able to swallow, to prevent dehydration.

What is the “honeymoon phase”?

In a person who has type 1 diabetes (T1D), the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas are destroyed by immune cells. However, right after the time of diagnosis, some people go through a “honeymoon phase” in which their existing beta cells still function. Halting the autoimmune response in people with new onset T1D and those who are at risk is one of the chief areas of research JDRF is focused on. JDRF funds a number of efforts to curb the progression of T1D in newly diagnosed individuals.  A number of research projects funded by JDRF have shown promise in preserving the function of these existing beta cells in people with T1D past the honeymoon phase.

Is type 1 diabetes hereditary?

Researchers are still trying to get a clear picture about how genes and environmental factors interact to determine a person’s risk of developing type 1 diabetes (T1D). Forty percent of everyone in the United States carries one or more of the HLA genes (human leukocyte antigen) which lead to increased risk of T1D. To be at increased risk, however, an individual needs two copies of these genes, one from each parent. One in 400-500 people in the general population develops T1D, but 1 in 20 (5 percent) people are at risk if a parent, sibling, or child has the disease. Research has shown, however, that genes don’t tell the whole story, and suggests that environmental factors (which are not yet fully known) play a role as well. JDRF is currently funding a study that follows more than 7,000 newborns at increased genetic risk of developing T1D and will collect vast amounts of data on potential environmental factors over a 15-year period to see which ones are associated with a greater or lesser risk of developing the disease.

How did my child get type 1 diabetes? We have no family history.

Research has shown that at most, only 15 percent of people with type 1 diabetes (T1D) have an affected first-degree relative – a sibling, parent, or offspring. Based on research, we also know that genes account for less than half the risk of developing T1D. These findings suggest that there are other factors besides genes that influence the development of diabetes. We don’t know what these factors are, but a number of different theories exist.

In general, there is a misconception that T1D is a familial disease and primarily occurs in families where there is someone else with T1D. In reality, only about 10% of individuals who are diagnosed withT1D have a family history of the disease.

For detailed information, you can read about the current research into the genetics of T1D on this website.

How long will I or my loved one have type 1 diabetes? Can you outgrow it? What is the life expectancy?

At this point, type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a chronic disease, meaning you never outgrow it. However JDRF is doing everything in its power to improve the lives of every person affected by T1D by accelerating progress on the most promising opportunities for curing, better treating, and preventing T1D.

Although you can never outgrow T1D, treatment options are improving all the time, and people with T1D can lead full and active lives. JDRF is driving research to improve the technology people with diabetes use to monitor blood sugar levels and deliver proper doses of insulin.  As new tools and technologies are developed to treat T1D, people with T1D achieve tighter glucose control and life expectancy significantly improves. In the meantime, one of the best things you can do is listen and learn from the experiences of others while also responding to your loved one’s individual needs or tending to your own. Avoid blaming yourself or your child when things don’t go smoothly. The reality is T1D is a difficult disease to manage, but we have come a long way and the technology is getting better all the time. Take advantage of the people, products, and other resources available to you.

Daily Life and Management

What is the optimal blood sugar range?

You should check with your doctor to determine the range of blood sugar levels best for the individual with type 1. In general, optimal blood sugar goals are: Before Meals: 70-110 mg/dL At Bedtime: 100-140 mg/dL

If your before-meals blood sugar is consistently lower than 70 mg/dl or higher than 140 mg/dl, or your bedtime blood sugar is consistently lower than 100 mg/dl or higher than 160 mg/dl, you probably need a change in your treatment plan and should consult your doctor. Blood sugar goals may be modified for children and others who are at greater risk for hypoglycemia.

What foods should a person with type 1 diabetes eat/avoid?

People with type 1 diabetes (T1D) should discuss their individual dietary needs with their doctor. Individualized meal planning is an integral part of every diabetes care plan. The key to every plan is balancing diet, exercise, and insulin intake to achieve blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. It’s important that anyone new to T1D develop strategies for eating out and controlling portions, and that they understand how to read and comprehend food labels. JDRF Kids Online has additional information on healthy eating for kids with T1D and their parents. You also might want to join Type One Nation, JDRF’s online community for people touched by T1D. The site features a Diet and Nutrition group and a Recipe Swap group.

For more information on nutrition and diabetes, the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse provides information on eating and diabetes.

Are there in-person support groups or others I can talk to about everyday issues?

Yes. JDRF has many compassionate, understanding, and dedicated volunteers who have been through many of the things you are experiencing and are more than happy to help you. Our Online Diabetes Support Team is made up of such volunteers. In addition, your local JDRF chapter can tell you about support groups in your local community that meet on a regular basis. Additionally, you or your child also might want to join Type One Nation, JDRF’s online community for people touched by type 1 diabetes (T1D). Type One Nation features blogs, discussion boards, forums, and other interactive resources on various topics related to living with T1D.

What do I need to know about type 1 diabetes in school?

School presents a host of challenging issues for children with type 1 diabetes (T1D), and it’s important to know how to work with the school to ensure the best care for your child. JDRF’s School Advisory Toolkit is a comprehensive resource for parents, teachers, nurses, and everyone who provides care for a child with T1D in school. It was written and compiled by JDRF volunteers with a direct T1D connection, and reflects their personal experiences. JDRF’s Back-to-School Webcast also discusses information on setting up 504 Plans and other topics found in JDRF’s School Advisory Toolkit. Additional information, articles, and links about caring for a child with diabetes in school can be found on our Type 1 Diabetes in School page.

How do I know whether I or my loved one is getting the best medical care available? Is there a list of recommended doctors and health care experts I can check?

Ultimately only you can determine whether or not you or your loved one is seeing the right doctor, but we will attempt to provide general guidelines to help you make that determination. On your next visit to your doctor, you may want to ask some or all of the following questions, in order to determine his or her level of expertise with type 1 diabetes (T1D) management. If you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor and have difficulty engaging in dialogue with him or her, it is probably best for you to seek alternate care.

Questions for your doctor:

  • How many patients with type 1 diabetes do you care for in your practice?
  • Are you familiar with the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial?
  • Do you work with a type 1 diabetes nurse educator?
  • Do you work with a dietitian knowledgeable about type 1 diabetes?
  • Do you work with an eye doctor knowledgeable about diagnosing and treating eye problems related to type 1 diabetes?
  • Do you have any experience with insulin pumps or continuous glucose monitors?
  • Is someone available 24 hours a day to help me manage problems with my type1 diabetes? How do I contact that person?

You can also ask other people with T1D or parents of children with T1D in your area who they recommend. In addition, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) website is an excellent resource for T1D care information, and allows you to search for an endocrinologist in your area.

Where can I get a medical ID for my child?

A number of companies make medical alert bracelets specifically marketed toward children with type 1 diabetes. The Children with Diabetes web site has a comprehensive listing of medical ID products.

Does JDRF offer resources for adults with type 1 diabetes?

JDRF appreciates the need for resources and support among members of the adult type 1 diabetes (T1D) community.  JDRF is active in research that benefits people with T1D at all ages and all stages of the disease, with special programs geared to both children and adults.

The JDRF website features a special page in the “Life with T1D” section with materials and articles for adults.  In this section of the website, you can download the Adult Type 1 Toolkit, a comprehensive free guidebook that contains important information and insight for adults, including a toolkit specific to newly diagnosed adults with T1D.

Another great resource for adults with T1D is JDRF’s online community for people touched byT1D, Type One Nation.  Type One Nation features blogs, discussion boards, forums, and other interactive resources on various topics related to living with T1D.

JDRF also has support groups and other activities geared to adults living with T1D. More information about participating in your area is available from your local JDRF chapter.  You can find contact information for your chapter on the locations page of the JDRF website. I need financial assistance for type 1 diabetes supplies and/or healthcare. There are pharmaceutical assistance programs offered directly by some drug companies for people with type 1 diabetes who have little or no insurance to help offset the cost of supplies or prescription medications. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance (888-477-2669) offers a point of access to hundreds of assistance programs that have joined together to provide savings to the uninsured. The Together Rx Access Card (800-444-4106) offers 25 to 40 percent off brand-name prescription medications at pharmacies nationwide. Needy Meds is a non-profit organization that provides information about patient assistance programs to help people who cannot afford medicine or healthcare costs. It provides a database of clinics that offer healthcare at no cost, for a small fee, or on a sliding scale. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) has a publication called “Financial Help for Diabetes Care.”

Where can I find health insurance for myself or my child with type 1 diabetes?

The federal government’s new site, Healthcare.gov, has information about health insurance options as well as an easy-to-use guide to help you find out which private insurance plans, public programs and community services are available to you.  Also, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) has a publication entitled “Financial Help for Diabetes Care.”

For your child, every state in the nation has a health insurance program for infants, children, and teens who are not otherwise insured. To find out about programs in your state, search Insure Kids Now!, offered by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (or call 877-KIDS-NOW). Another option to investigate is your state Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

I have type 1 diabetes and need help finding life insurance.

People with type 1 diabetes (T1D) may encounter difficulties obtaining life insurance. It may be necessary to do some individual research to find a company that will provide you with a policy. While JDRF does not keep lists of companies that offer life insurance to people with T1D, we can offer some direction to help you start your research into finding a policy.

An online search engine is a good place to begin your research. If you do a web search using terms such as “diabetic life insurance,” you should find companies that will provide coverage. JDRF cannot vouch for any of the companies that you may find in this manner, however, so we strongly recommend you investigate them thoroughly.

Where can I find information about camps for kids with type 1 diabetes?

JDRF Kids Online has articles on diabetes camps. In addition, state-by-state listings of summer camps for children with type 1 diabetes (T1D) can be found at the Diabetes Education and Camping Association and Children with Diabetes  web sites. You can also search for T1D camps on the American Camp Association’s web site.

Research

Where can I find information about clinical trials?

JDRF’s Clinical Trials Connection provides people affected by type 1 diabetes (T1D) and its complications with up-to-date information on clinical trial participation opportunities.

Clinical Trials Connection is an online service that allows you to “opt-in” to get information about trials, and access to them. It contains information about all currently active T1D trials in the U.S. Based on the criteria you choose, the connection provides you with information about selected trials and how to contact the researchers conducting them. You can also choose to receive regular updates so that you’ll know when new trials that meet your criteria become available. If you find a trial that interests you, you can discuss it with your doctor and also contact the trial’s primary investigator with any questions or concerns.

What’s the latest research information? Is there a cure in sight?

This is the question JDRF is best equipped to answer, as the leading global organization focused on type 1 diabetes (T1D) research.  Driven by passionate, grassroots volunteers connected to children, adolescents, and adults with this disease, JDRF is the largest charitable supporter of T1D research. The goal of JDRF research is to improve the lives of every person affected by T1D by accelerating progress on the most promising opportunities for curing, better treating, and preventing T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners who share this goal.

Since its founding in 1970, JDRF has awarded more than $1.6 billion to diabetes research. Past JDRF efforts have helped to significantly advance the care of people with this disease, and have expanded the critical scientific understanding of T1D. JDRF will not rest until T1D is fully conquered.

JDRF’s research goals are realized by the projects being supported in three basic areas:

Cure: Restoring a person’s insulin-producing capability and halting or reversing the body’s misguided immune attack on the pancreas.

Treat: Developing new devices and therapies that optimize blood sugar control and treat or prevent the complications of T1D.

Prevent: Preventing T1D from occurring or stopping the disease process before it damages the pancreas.

Additionally, JDRF produces regular research updates to help keep you informed on the latest progress in T1D research.  To stay informed on the latest news, please subscribe to our free online publication Countdown; review the Research pages on JDRF.org; visit our newsroom and check out JDRF’s News Blog. All of these resources are updated with new stories frequently. How can I help find a cure? The best ways are by making a donation or volunteering with JDRF. The goal of JDRF research is to improve the lives of every person affected by type 1 diabetes (T1D) by accelerating progress on the most promising opportunities for curing, better treating, and preventing T1D, so you know that the money you donate or help raise will be used appropriately. More than 80 percent of JDRF’s expenditures go directly to research and research-related education.  JDRF has many wonderful opportunities for volunteers. Events such as Walks, Galas, Rides, and various other fundraisers are great ways to meet other families dealing with T1D and forge bonds that will last a lifetime. In addition to fundraising, JDRF volunteers also invest time in our grassroots advocacy initiatives, such as Children’s Congress and the Promise to Remember Me Campaign. While JDRF is the world’s leading charitable funder of  T1D research, we also advocate for federal support of T1D research, in order to ensure that sufficient funds will be available to support the critical human clinical trials needed to ultimately cure T1D.

JDRF

Why did JDRF change its name? Since its founding in 1970, JDRF was known as the “Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.” But today, 85% of those with T1D are no longer juveniles, they are adults.   As a result the word “juvenile” is no longer descriptive of T1D or of the people and families living with the disease.  Therefore, we recently dropped the formal name “Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation” from our identity and will now be known simply as JDRF.  This better reflects our commitment to working with all ages and all stages of T1D, transforming lives both today and tomorrow.  The brand section of the JDRF website contains more information on our name change and brand identity.