What is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body no longer produces any insulin. (Insulin is a hormone that helps your body to control the level of glucose in your blood.) Without insulin, glucose builds up in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and teenagers.
What causes type 1 diabetes?
It is not known exactly what causes type 1 diabetes. People who have a close family member (such as a parent, or a brother or sister) with type 1 diabetes are at a slightly higher risk of getting the disease. However, other risk factors have not yet been identified.
How is type 1 diabetes managed?
Insulin therapy is required for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. Unlike type 2 diabetes, it is the only therapy that can be used to manage the disease. Insulin is injected by pen, syringe or an insulin pump. Your healthcare team can work with you to determine the number of insulin injections needed each day, the timing of insulin injections and the dose of insulin needed with each injection.
Healthy eating and meal planning
Healthy eating and meal planning are important in the management of type 1 diabetes. A variety of healthy foods are needed for a balanced diet. This includes lots of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats, and a moderate amount of whole grains such as bread, rice, pasta and cereal. It is a good idea to meet with a registered dietitian who can help you with a meal plan.
Carbohydrate counting is a meal planning technique for managing blood glucose levels. It helps you to keep track of how much carbohydrate you are eating. You set a limit for your maximum amount of carbohydrate to eat for a meal, and with the right balance of physical activity and insulin, it can help to keep your blood glucose levels in their target range. How much carbohydrate you eat is very individual. You and your healthcare team can work together to determine the right amount of carbohydrate per meal for you.
Exercise is important, to ensure that you maintain a healthy body weight. Resistance exercise is also an important part of your regular physical activity plan.
Checking blood glucose levels
A blood glucose meter gives a reading of your blood glucose level at any given time. You and your healthcare team can determine when – and how often – you should check your blood glucose level if you have type 1 diabetes. It is important to check at various times of the day, for example, first thing in the morning, before and after you eat, at bedtime, and occasionally in the night. You may also need to check your blood sugar level more often if you are ill, or change your daily routines. Blood glucose monitoring is the main tool you have to measure your diabetes control. Keeping a log of your results is important. When you bring this record to your health care provider, you have a good picture of your body's response to your diabetes care plan.
What are the complications of type 1 diabetes?
Complications of diabetes often develop gradually, and usually happen because blood glucose levels remain too high. The longer you have diabetes — and the less controlled your blood glucose levels – the higher the risk of complications. Complications of diabetes include heart disease, eye disease, kidney disease and nerve problems.
Emotional health and well-being
Many people find that managing diabetes can seem overwhelming at times. The stresses and strains of paying attention to nutrition, physical activity, medication management and blood glucose levels can sometimes take a toll on people’s emotional well-being.