Diabetes Type 1 develops when the immune system attacks insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas. This means that the body can’t produce the insulin it needs to regulate blood sugar. At present, there is no way to repair the damage, but people with this illness can remain healthy by using insulin that has been produced artificially.
There are two ways that this kind of diabetes treatment can be administered: through injections or through an insulin pump. People with Type 1 diabetes also need to monitor their blood glucose levels several times a day in order to make sure that they don’t get too high. Over time, high blood glucose can damage your eyes, skin and internal organs, causing additional serious health problems. With careful management, however, this is not inevitable.
Most people can learn to deliver their own diabetes treatment using an insulin pen. This is easy to carry around so it doesn’t need to restrict your daily activities. Your doctor or a nurse will show you how to use it, how to change needles and how to store everything safely. Every individual is different, but you will probably have to use it two to four times a day. It’s a good idea to make sure that a close friend or family member knows how to use it too, in case you find yourself needing help.
Although needing injections can sound frightening, using an insulin pen is easy to do and doesn’t cause much discomfort. After using it for a while, you’ll hardly notice it going in. Some people prefer to use syringes, however.
If you have difficulty administering injections or find it hard to keep your blood glucose levels stable this way, an alternative option is an insulin pump. This is a small device (about 10cm by 5cm) that you can carry with you, and it’s attached to a length of plastic tubing that’s permanently fitted underneath your skin. You can choose the location that’s most comfortable for you. It administers insulin at a slow, constant rate, keeping you in good health and maintaining a stable energy level.
You will need to visit your doctor every two to six months to have your blood glucose level checked. You can use a blood glucose meter or blood glucose test strips for at-home monitoring. This needs to be done even if you are using an insulin pump because the amount of insulin you need can be affected by factors like diet, alcohol consumption, hormonal changes and use of other medicines.
If your blood glucose fall too low or rise too high, you may need emergency diabetes treatment. Hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) can usually be treated by eating something sweet followed by something with long chain carbohydrates, such as cereal or a sandwich, but if it becomes severe you may need intravenous glucose. If it happens frequently and severely, your doctor may recommend an islet cell transplant. Hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose) can be treated by adjusting your insulin levels. If this doesn’t happen, you could develop a dangerous condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, and need urgent hospital treatment.
Having Type 1 diabetes increases your risk of developing some other illnesses, so your doctor may recommend that you take other medication to lower this risk.