+31 (0)20 630 65 35 info@stichtingdon.nl



What is it that goes wrong inside the body?


Diabetes type 1 is an auto-immune disease. Due to an error in the immune system, the cells that produce insulin (beta cells in the Islets of Langerhans in the pancreas) are destroyed. As a result the beta cells produce no or hardly any insulin. It is still not completely clear what the precise cause of diabetes type 1 is. Genetic susceptibility plays a (relatively small) role and probably also environmental factors, such as diet and infections. Diabetes type 1 can arise at any age, but usually occurs among children and young adults. Because insufficient insulin is produced, people with diabetes type 1 must inject insulin daily.

Glucose and insulin

Food and drinks supply carbohydrates to the body. These carbohydrates are turned into glucose in the small intestine. The cells in the body need this glucose as a source of energy. Insulin is made in the Islet of Langerhans of the pancreas and is delivered to the blood. Insulin ensures that the glucose can be absorbed easily by the body cells; it basically opens the door of the cell, so the glucose can enter. That is why it is important that sufficient insulin is available to process the glucose in food.



There are various signals that may point to diabetes type 1. Symptoms of diabetes type 1 are as follows:

A lot of thirst and much peeing, losing weight while having a healthy appetite, weakness/muscle pain, very tired and/or irritable, being nauseous or vomiting and blurry vision.

It is important to quickly visit the physician if you recognize many symptoms. The physician can use a blood test to determine whether or not it is diabetes type 1.



On the short term

A hypo is short for a hypoglycaemia or, in other words, low levels of blood sugar. If there is insufficient glucose present in the blood (less than 3mmil/l), people have a so-called hypo. The symptoms are shaking, sweating, headache, dizziness, decreased concentration, fatigue, hunger and high irritability. Someone with a very serious hypo can even lose consciousness.

A hyper is short for hyperglycaemia or, in other words, high levels of blood sugar. Frequent urination, serious thirst, fatigue and a dry tongue are symptoms if someone has high glucose levels for an extended time. Even a coma is possible. If the blood sugar is too high often, then there is a higher chance of complications of diabetes on the long term.

On the long term

Diabetes can have destructive effects on many important areas of the body, but especially on the large blood vessels, kidneys, eyes and nerves. On the long term, this can lead to complications such as blindness and cardiovascular disorders.



Treatment aims to normalize the blood glucose level as much as possible and thereby reduce the risk of serious complications. The aim is to administer the right amount of insulin or hypoglycaemic tablets in changing conditions, and to correctly balance diet and exercise.

Worrying development

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in children and teenagers. And the rapid increase in diabetes among children is alarming. More and more children are developing diabetes at an increasingly younger age. Between 1988 and 1990, it was at 9.2 years of age, now it is 7.6. Due to the younger age, there is also more risk of complications because of longer lifetime exposure to diabetes.

Is there a cure for diabetes type 1?

There has been much research into diabetes. However, more is invested in making everyday life more comfortable for patients. The DON Foundation supports, and is actively in search of, ground-breaking research, with the aim of finding a complete cure for diabetes type 1. Every day we work hard to achieve this aim, but we have not yet found the solution.

Facts & figures


Facts and figures diabetes type 1

  • In The Netherlands, 100,000 people have diabetes type 1
  • About 12,000 children until the age of 20 have diabetes type 1
  • Besides asthma, diabetes type 1 is the most common chronic disease under children
  • One in two people with diabetes type 1 have chronic complications

Diabetes type 1 cannot be cured. Diabetes type 1 is a chronic disease for which a cure still has not been found. The closest thing to curing it is transplanting the pancreas or the insulin-producing beta cells. But only a very small amount of patients are eligible for this. If you have diabetes type 1, you can have sugar. Diabetes may be commonly called ‘sugar disease’ in Dutch, but this does not mean that people with diabetes type 1 cannot have any sugar at all. Diabetes type 1 is unrelated to overweight. Even the thinnest people can get diabetes type 1. People with diabetes type 1 have high odds of complications. Diabetes can have a destructive effect on the body, especially on the large blood vessels, kidneys, eyes and nerves. The chances of complications increase the longer people have the disease. World Diabetes Day. Every year on November 14, World Diabetes Day is celebrated on the occasion of the birthday of Frederick Banting who, in 1922, together with Charles Best, formed the basis for the discovery of Insulin.