For people with type 1 diabetes (T1D), there is a network called TrialNet, in which you can enroll relatives in studies to see if they are likely to develop type 1. TrialNet offers free T1D antibody screenings, to see if you or your child has the antibodies that will eventually attack the pancreas and lead to type 1 diabetes.
Because the chances of developing type 1 are 1 in 20 when a parent has type 1 diabetes, it’s helpful to get a child screened. Once screened, you can know what to expect, possibly get on a preventive drug, and avoid dangerous complications like diabetic ketoacidosis.
How the screening works
The screening draws a blood sample to screen for five proteins (antibodies) that indicate that the immune system has started to recognize the pancreas as something foreign. Over time these antibodies begin to attack the pancreas, making it unable to produce insulin.
TrialNet used to provide an annual screening for children at risk, but no longer does. Due to funding cuts, children can now be tested at age 2 ½ (previously it was age 1). If a child does not have the antibodies, they don’t get any more screenings.
The good thing is that you can learn a lot from these studies. The bad thing is that sometimes the trials end for no reason, and you are left wondering whether type 1 will appear.
One trial on TrialNet is looking into the drug Teplizumab, which can delay the onset of type 1 diabetes. In the past, delaying or preventing type 1 diabetes was unheard of, so this is a breakthrough.
How type 1 diabetes works
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas creates little to no insulin for the body to convert sugar into energy. When this happens, sugar builds up in the bloodstream and can damage blood vessels throughout the body. Keeping blood sugar within a healthy range is crucial for type 1 diabetes, and those with T1D will have to take insulin through injections or a pump.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes
The following are common symptoms of type 1 diabetes:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Weight loss
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Blurred vision
Researchers still do not know what causes type 1 and how to prevent it. Trials such as those from TrialNet get us one step closer to uncovering the mysteries and preventing type 1 diabetes.
If you think you or a loved one has type 1 diabetes, visit your primary care doctor. To get a free type 1 diabetes screening, visit TrialNet’s website to find a screening location near you.