A classification of the three stages of type 1 diabetes developed by JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). For decades, diabetes researchers have recognized how type 1 diabetes develops: the immune system, which normally protects the body from bacteria and viruses, launches a misguided attack on the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. Once enough beta cells have been damaged or destroyed, blood glucose levels rise, and eventually the symptoms of diabetes develop.
In Stage 1, two or more types of insulin autoantibodies (proteins made by the immune system that target the pancreas) are present, but blood glucose levels are still normal. In a study of children who reached this stage, 44% developed diabetes within five years, 70% developed diabetes within 10 years, and nearly 100% developed diabetes in their lifetimes. In Stage 2, the individual has lost enough beta cells for blood glucose levels to start to rise. An estimated 75% of Stage 2 individuals will eventually develop diabetes. In Stage 3, individuals experience the classic signs of diabetes, such as frequent urination, excessive thirst, weight loss, fatigue and a serious blood chemistry imbalance called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which requires hospitalization.
Studies have shown that the short-term benefits of using such a system include fewer episodes of DKA and hospitalization and a greater chance of entering a “honeymoon” period, in which less insulin needs to be administered. Researchers hope that this staging system will aid in designing clinical trials to prevent or delay full-blown diabetes.