Type 1 Diabetes Endothelial Dysfunction: The Significance and the Risks
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Endothelial Dysfunction in Cases of Type 1 Diabetes

written by: Lashan Clarke • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 5/31/2011

Type 1 diabetes endothelial dysfunction sometimes leads to other complications in diabetes patients. Learn more about this dysfunction and how it can cause diabetic retinopathy and other serious consequences.

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    What is Type 1 Diabetes?

    Type 1 diabetes is medical condition that affects the endocrine area of the pancreas. The endocrine pancreas controls the level of blood sugar by producing two hormones called glucagon and insulin. Glucagon will increase blood sugar, while insulin is responsible for a decrease in blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes is believed to have an autoimmune cause and develops when the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin are destroyed. The main symptoms of type 1 diabetes are polydipsia, polyuria, polyphagia, fatigue, infections and weight loss. Treatment for type 1 diabetes includes medication such as insulin, proper nutrition and regular exercise.

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    What Is Endothelial Dysfunction?

    The endothelium is a layer within the blood vessel that controls blood clotting, helps the immune system and regulates the amount of fluid and electrolytes. Therefore, it is a major component of vascular homeostasis. Endothelial dysfunction occurs when this layer does not function correctly. The endothelium is also responsible for controlling the size of the vessel. This means it will expand and contract to dilate and constrict these vessels.

    As a result of any dysfunction, all of the blood vessels within the body might be affected. The main way in which reduced function within the blood vessel is measured is by measuring the ability of the vessel to constrict or expand. The causes of this condition include diabetes, hypertension, smoking, lack of exercise and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome includes those medical conditions that can lead to heart disease and diabetes. Endothelial dysfunction is also a risk factor for other medical conditions such as atherosclerosis or aneurysms. When this abnormal function occurs, there is more inflammation and clotting within the blood vessels.

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    Endothelial Dysfunction in Cases of Type 1 Diabetes

    It is known that an association between type 1 diabetes and endothelial dysfunction exists. This type 1 diabetes endothelial dysfunction is a complication of diabetes mellitus and is also an early link to other diabetes complications. Vascular complications caused by endothelial dysfunction include retinopathy, nephropathy, neuropathy, atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease, stroke and erectile dysfunction.

    This type of dysfunction affects both large and small (micro) blood vessels, which leads to diabetic retinopathy, diabetic nephropathy and other complications related to a lack of blood flow. If you experience visual disturbances or other signs of diabetic complications, see your doctor immediately.

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    Researchers believe that endothelial dysfunction correlates with how well you control your diabetes. Dysfunction occurs when blood sugar levels are high, so better control of your blood sugar could reduce your risk of complications. Following a diabetic diet, checking your blood sugar levels regularly and taking any prescribed medications will help you control your diabetes. If your blood glucose level is difficult to control, talk to your endocrinologist about other available treatment methods. A dietitian or nutritionist can also help you make any necessary dietary adjustments.

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