Central to the treatment of type 1 diabetes is to keep a balance of the right amount of insulin to keep blood glucose levels from being either too high or too low.
In type 1 diabetes the body’s immune system kills of the insulin producing cells leaving the pancreas unable to produce enough insulin to keep blood glucose levels at healthy levels.
As a result, insulin needs to be taken by injection or another delivery means such as by infusion with an insulin pump. Insulin is a hormone in the body that helps to move glucose out of the blood and into cells for energy.
Your health team
Your diabetes health team are an important part of your diabetes treatment. Your GP and consultants, between them, will be able to offer you advice on controlling diabetes and refer you to any medical specialists you may need to see.
Your health team will also be responsible for making sure you get all the diabetes health checks that are recommended for people with diabetes. The health checks will help you health team to spot any signs of damage caused by diabetes and ensure these are treated to prevent the damage becoming more serious.
When you are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes you will be put onto insulin injections. The thought of injecting each day can be a big shock at first but once you get the hang of it, it becomes a manageable part of life.
Over the last few decades some big steps have been made to reduce the hassle involved in injecting and insulin injections can now be done quickly, discretely and often painlessly.
An alternative way of taking insulin is to use an insulin pump. An alternative name for insulin pump therapy is continuous insulin infusion therapy because insulin pumps work by continuously delivering small amounts of insulin into the body.
Insulin pumps have a small tube called a cannula that is inserted just under the skin and is kept in place for a few days at a time until they need changing. The cannula allows insulin to be delivered into the layer of fat we have just under the skin, from where it can be absorbed by the blood.
The insulin pump itself is worn outside of the body, often near to your waist, and electronic controls on the pump or a separate handheld device allow you to control how much insulin is delivered.
Keeping blood glucose at the right level
As mentioned above, key to treating type 1 diabetes is to ensure blood glucose levels are not too high and not too low. There are specific blood glucose targets that we should aim to keep our blood glucose levels within.
The balancing act of keeping sugar levels not too high and not too low is not easy but with a good understanding of how our body works and how diabetes behaves, you can build up experience to gain good control of type 1 diabetes.
Everyone with type 1 diabetes will experience some blood sugar levels that are too high or too low at some point. If our blood glucose levels become either very high or very low, it can put up us at risk of immediate dangerous health so it is important to know how to recognise the signs of high and low blood glucose levels.
Another reason for keeping sugar levels at the recommended levels is that regularly having blood glucose levels that are too high raises the risk of suffering health difficulties (diabetes complications) later in life.
- High blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia)
- Low blood glucose (hypoglycemia)
The honeymoon phase
When you are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, your body will often be producing a significant amount of its own insulin which means your pancreas helps out to make managing sugar levels slightly easier. The time period when your body is producing a useful amount of insulin is known as the honeymoon phase of type 1 diabetes.
After a number of months and sometimes up to a few years, your body will stop being able to produce as much insulin and you will find you need to take more insulin than you have been. When this happens you may also find that your blood glucose results may become higher or sometimes lower than previously.
If you ever find that your diabetes has become more difficult to manage than previously, speak to your health team who will be able to find time to advise you on how you can best cope with managing your sugar levels.