- Singer Nick Jonas discussed his type 1 diabetes diagnosis in a recent TIkTok video.
- Jonas talked about the early symptoms of the disease he had before he was diagnosed as a teenager.
- Type 1 diabetes affects about 1.3 million adults in the U.S.
Singer-songwriter Nick Jonas recently posted a short video to raise awareness of early signs of diabetes for World Diabetes Day – it’s a chronic condition he’s lived with since his teens.
The entertainer, now 30, said he experienced several signs that something was wrong before being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 13.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019 nearly 29 million people were diagnosed with diabetes – that’s almost 9 percent of the U.S. population. Type 1 diabetes affects about 1.3 million adults in the U.S.
Four signs of type 1 diabetes
Jonas pointed to four symptoms as they pop up in the video he posted to both Instagram and TikTok:
- Weight loss
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
“I remember I told my parents that I needed to go to the doctor, something didn’t feel right and they had already seen the significant weight loss and some of the other symptoms so they brought me in,” Jonas said in an interview with an organization he co-founded called Beyond Type 1.
“It was there that my pediatrician informed me that I had type 1 diabetes,” he continued. “At first I was devastated, naturally. But I didn’t really have time to be devastated because I had to get right to the hospital. It was the start to a crazy new journey.”
Dr. Ricardo Correa, director of the endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism fellowship program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, told Healthline that type 1 diabetes usually occurs in younger people, although it can show up in adults.
About “85% occur in kids between the age of two and 14 years old,” he said of initial diagnoses.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes
Correa said children with undiagnosed type 1 diabetes often arrive at the hospital extremely ill because their disease has been untreated.
Many times early symptoms of the disease are relatively mild and go unnoticed by parents and caregivers.
“These are kids that usually start having some kind of dehydration, they pee a lot, they are thirsty, they eat a lot, but no one notices because they are kids and this is common,” he said.
Correa said these children can go into something called diabetic ketoacidosis, or diabetic coma, a potentially life-threatening condition.
“Type 1 diabetes, because they have no insulin, they present directly with diabetes ketoacidosis,” he said.
Correa explained that those at highest risk for developing type 1 diabetes are children with a genetic predisposition.
“So if someone in your family, father, mother, sibling, has type 1 diabetes, not type 2, but type 1, you’re at higher risk,” he said.
Additionally, he said that people born with certain types of autoimmune conditions are more predisposed to develop type 1 diabetes.
What is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, it results when antibodies in the body start to attack the cells that produce insulin.
Correa explained this causes the destruction of those cells that produce insulin.
“In type 1 diabetes, the problem is that antibodies are destroying the cells that produce insulin and there will be a point where you don’t produce insulin anymore,” said Correa.
If you can no longer produce the insulin, the body is unable to use sugar (glucose) for energy.
Diabetes increases risk of other health issues
“Any type of diabetes, if it’s not controlled, whether type 1 or type 2, they’re at risk of developing kidney problems, meaning that they can go into dialysis, they’re at risk of developing blindness – it’s [type 1 diabetes] the most common cause of blindness in the world.”
He added that people with diabetes can also develop neuropathy or nerve damage.
“Meaning that they have some pain, mainly in the feet or other kinds of nerve problems,” said Correa. “They’re [also] at high risk of developing cardiovascular outcomes – meaning heart attacks, strokes, because of this [diabetes].”
However, he pointed out that this is all in cases where the condition is not controlled.
“If the condition is controlled, because you’re using your insulin for type 1 diabetes or medication for type 2,” Correa said. “It’s very unlikely that this will happen. But uncontrolled [type 1 or type 2 diabetes] then yes, it’s most likely that this will happen.”
In some people who develop type 1 diabetes, there can be a honeymoon period shortly after being diagnosed, according to JDRF formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
“During what is known as the ‘honeymoon phase,’ people with T1D can experience a period in which they are asymptomatic,” according to the JDRF website. “The honeymoon phase typically lasts a few months to a year post-diagnosis as, with the help of some injected insulin, a patient’s existing beta cells continue to function normally and produce enough insulin for blood-glucose management.”
Eventually, the remaining beta cells lose will function.
No way to prevent type 1 diabetes
Correa noted that there is no way to prevent the development of type 1 diabetes.
However, he said that some studies have shown promise by using stem cells in patients with high-risk, or anti-inflammatory medication that decreases the immune system response.
“There has even been trial of tuberculosis vaccine to see if that reduces the production of antibodies that would destroy the beta cells,” Correa said. “But nothing at this point has been approved.
The bottom line
To raise awareness on World Diabetes Day, singer/songwriter Nick Jonas posted a video to social media explaining the four symptoms of type 1 diabetes – a condition he was diagnosed with as a teen.
Experts say that when untreated, type 1 diabetes leads to hospitalization with potentially life-threatening diabetic ketoacidosis.
They also say that the disease is genetic and so far, can’t be prevented.
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