If Left Untreated, Is Type 1 Diabetes Deadly?

There is a question that several people, especially parents, worry about. How long can someone go without knowing they have type 1 diabetes? Can they die if he or she does not treat it?

Type 1 diabetes can affect several very vital organs inside of the body if it goes untreated. This includes your heart, blood vessels, eyes, nerves, and kidneys (Mayo Clinic, 2014). These can be damaged even if diabetes is being managed with some insulin, but blood sugar levels are high.

Most problems with diabetes develop over time. However, the condition I would be most concerned over is diabetic ketoacidosis, DKA.

When blood sugar levels are high because there is no insulin in the body to turn glucose into energy, then DKA sets in. This is when the body starts getting energy from fats and muscles.

When your body uses fats for energy, it starts to develop ketones. Ketones will cause your body to have a pH level that is acidic. It is important that you get DKA treated quickly.

If your child has type 1 diabetes, and it goes untreated, it will eventually lead to death due to DKA. If DKA is left untreated, people can go into a diabetic coma.

The onset of DKA is normally how parents find out their children have type 1 diabetes. There are symptoms that you can look for.

Some signs are frequent urination, extreme thirst, abdominal or stomach pains, weight loss, a fruity smell in their breath, cold skin, confusion, fatigue, and weakness (Smith-Marsh, 2017).

Test your child’s blood sugar level if they are experiencing these symptoms. It would also be good to have ketone strips to see the level of ketones in their urine. If you do not have access to any of these, seek medical attention right away.

Type 1 diabetes develops slowly over time. It normally reveals itself during childhood. Normally, parents do not find out if their child has type 1 diabetes until they develop DKA (Smith-Marsh, 2017).

So, the answer is yes. If left untreated, a person can die from type 1 diabetes, normally due to DKA. How long can that process take?

It depends on the person. DKA can become serious very rapidly. In some cases, it takes more time for it to become life-threatening. In the end, it is a deadly condition.

Therefore, it is important that you take steps to look for symptoms inside of your child. If you are worried, seek medical attention right away. Doctors can test for high blood glucose levels and ketones.

It is important that you do what you can to help your child manage type 1 diabetes even if they do not have it. Most of the lifestyle choices are great for anyone, and they can prevent type 2 diabetes later on in life.

It is best to have them eat a nutritious diet. It is suggested to take out trans fats and focus on healthier fats. Try to eat more fruits and vegetables. Proteins can be very good as well.

Also, exercising regularly is extremely important.

Seek medical help if your child or you are experiencing some of these symptoms. It is better to test for type 1 diabetes than to leave it untreated.


Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014). Diseases and conditions: type 1 diabetes. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-1-diabetes/basics/complications/con-20019573

Smith-Marsh, D.E. (2017). Type 1 diabetes complications. Vertical Health. Retrieved from https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/type-1-diabetes/type-1-diabetes-complications