Who gets type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes used to be called juvenile diabetes because it was thought that only children and adolescents got this condition. This condition is typically diagnosed in people before the age of 40, but some people are diagnosed at an older age. To muddy the waters even further, there is yet another type of diabetes called latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA), which is a slow but progressive form of diabetes that is diagnosed during adulthood. Initially, LADA appears as type 2 diabetes. However, like type 1 diabetes, LADA is an autoimmune condition. This means that, eventually, the beta cells will stop producing insulin and insulin injections are necessary.
How is type 1 diabetes treated?
There’s no cure — yet — for type 1 diabetes, but it’s treatable with insulin. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin. This means that a person with type 1 must replace the insulin that the body no longer produces. Insulin can be taken in several ways: by injection (using a pen or a syringe), by an inhaler or by using an insulin pump, which is an electronic device that administers insulin. There are many different types of insulin available: rapid-, short-, intermediate- and long-acting insulin, which act in a way that more closely resembles how the body’s own insulin would act. If you are injecting insulin with a syringe or a pen, you will likely need to take both a short- and a long-acting insulin. If you use an insulin pump, you only use a short-acting insulin. Your doctor or diabetes educator will help you determine the best way to give yourself insulin, as well as the best types of insulin to use.
In addition to insulin, an individualized eating plan and activity plan play an important role in helping you to manage your blood glucose levels. Checking your blood glucose with a meter or using a continuous glucose monitor are crucial for you and your health-care team to know how your diabetes treatment plan is working and if any changes are needed.
How can I manage my blood glucose levels if I have type 1 diabetes?
Finding out that you have type 1 diabetes can be scary and overwhelming. Learning how to manage it can be challenging and, at times, even frustrating. The good news is that managing diabetes is definitely doable! There are millions of people who have type 1 diabetes and are doing great. However, there are some steps you need to take to figure out the best way to manage your diabetes. The first step? Learn about your diabetes. You can’t manage something if you don’t know what’s happening. Ask your doctor for a referral to a diabetes educator or look into diabetes programs at your local hospital or health center.
You’ll need to take insulin, and your doctor may refer you to an endocrinologist, which is a doctor who specializes in diabetes to prescribe an insulin regimen that works best for you. Ideally, the endocrinologist will have a diabetes educator in the office who will show you the ropes on how to inject your insulin, how it works, when to take it and what to do if your blood sugar drops too low or goes too high. You should also meet with a dietitian or attend some nutrition classes to learn about how food affects your blood glucose and how to balance your carbohydrate intake to keep your blood glucose within your target range. Checking your blood sugar with a meter is vital for you to know if your blood glucose is at a safe level — many people with type 1 diabetes check before and after meals, and before going to bed, as well as before and after exercising. It may seem like a lot of finger-sticks — but it’s great information for you and your health-care team to understand if your insulin is working for you. You might eventually look into using an insulin pump to deliver insulin (no more injections) and/or a continuous glucose monitor (no more finger-sticks). Find out about the different tests and exams that you’ll need, as well, such as an A1C test and an annual dilated eye exam, for example. Keep all of your doctor appointments and go to your appointments prepared with questions. Finally, realize that diabetes education is a lifelong process. There is always something new to learn, so seek out classes, websites, support groups and diabetes publications so that you can stay on top of new treatments and research.