What Is Type 1 Diabetes – Explained In Easy Terms


What Is Type 1 Diabetes – Insulin-Dependent Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a serious life long condition in which your blood glucose levels become high.
The reason your blood levels are high is that the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy. Type 1 diabetes was once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. Type 1 diabetes isn’t linked with age or being overweight that is type 2 diabetes

What Causes Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

How does type 1 diabetes develop? The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. However, it is thought to be an autoimmune disease, which means your body mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. Somebody gets flu or an infection or another trigger causes the body to mistakenly attack the cells in the pancreas that make insulin.

Do Genes Play A Role In Type 1 Diabetes

Some people cannot develop type 1 diabetes, that’s because they don’t have the genetic coding that researchers have linked to type 1 diabetes. Scientists have figured out that type 1 diabetes can develop in people who have a particular HLA complex. HLA stands for human leukocyte antigen, and antigens function is to trigger an immune response in the body.

What Are The Warning Signs Of Diabetes

Signs Symptoms Type 1 Diabetes – The Early Diabetes Symptoms

  • Increased Thirst
  • Frequent Urination (or urine infections)
  • Unexplained Weight Loss
  • Increased Hunger
  • Fatigue – your body is unable to break down glucose into energy
  • Dry Mouth
  • Blurred Vision
  • Headaches
  • Cuts & Bruises that are slow to heal

Although I suffered from most of the above, it was a blurred vision that made me go to the doctors, where I was diagnosed after a simple blood test. Another symptom I had quite often before diagnoses were the feeling of adrenaline running through my body (a bit like how you feel just before getting into a fight)

These symptoms occur because some or all of the glucose stays in the blood, and isn’t being used as fuel for energy. The body tries to reduce blood glucose levels by flushing the excess glucose out of the body in the urine. High levels of glucose being passed in the urine are a perfect breeding ground for the fungal infection which causes thrush.

If you have a few of the above signs it is important you get checked out at your doctors for a check to see if you have diabetes, It doesn’t necessarily mean you have diabetes, but it’s worth checking – early diagnosis, treatment, and good control are vital for good health and reduce the chances of developing serious complications. Left untreated can lead to serious health problems, including Ketoacidosis which can result in a potentially fatal coma.

Treatment For Type 1 Diabetes

If you’re diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you’ll need daily insulin injections for the rest of your life to keep your blood glucose levels under control. Gone is the days of drawing insulin out of a vial into a syringe, insulin now comes in the form of a pen, it’s an easy and discreet way to administer insulin.

There are many kinds of insulin and it will be up to your health care team to decide which one they are going to start you on, more often than not your insulin will change until your health team finds the best insulin regime that works for you. It is important that you use the best insulin injection sites which are Abdomen, Upper Arms, Thigh, Buttocks.

Consistently injecting into the same site can lead to hard lumps or fatty deposits called lipohypertrophy under the skin. This type of tissue feels spongy and does not consistently absorb the insulin, which can lead to unexplained high or low blood glucose levels developing, so there for its important to rotate injection sites and use different area,s within the injection part of your chosen body area. Insulin is absorbed differently from each of the different sites.

  • Abdomen: insulin enters the bloodstream most quickly.
  • Upper arms: moderate absorption speed but not as fast as the abdomen.
  • Buttocks and thighs: slowest absorption speed.

Please watch this short video about injecting insulin

Insulin Doses – How Much Insulin To Take
The amount of Insulin you will need to take varies from person to person no 2 people are the same. It also depends on the amount of food you have eaten and the amount of exercise you have done or going to be doing and how your body reacts to Insulin. Your health care team will decide with you what type of insulin to start you on and how much insulin to take, these will both change over time as you and your health care team fine-tune your treatment.

It is very important you take 3-4 daily finger pricks to check the amount of sugar in your blood by using a Blood Glucose Meter usually just before you eat. The result will help you determine how much insulin to take, taking into account the things mentioned above. When your first diagnosed you won’t know how to calculate how much insulin to take, this is something you will learn over time, but for now you will need to keep a diary of your blood results, what you have eaten and if you did any physical activity, this information will then help your health care team adjust the amount of insulin you need.

Managing type 1 diabetes can take time to get used to, it will take time for you to learn about living with diabetes, it will take time to understand how much insulin to take, It takes time to learn how Insulin, Food, and Physical Exercise changes the amount of glucose in your blood. You will over time learn and be confident in treating your diabetes.

For now, tho don’t worry, don’t stress, you can still do all the things you enjoy. You’re in the hands of your health care team and it’s their job to help you control your diabetes… Your Not On Your Own!. I personally know (because I did it) that newly diagnosed diabetics lie about there blood glucose reading in there diaries if they are high, and also about what sweet things they have eaten. Please do not do this, like I said it’s your health care teams job to help you to get the readings down.

If you have questions about your diabetes, I would suggest you write them down and get your health care team to answer these at your next appointment. Also, you can comment below, myself or other people on the site will try to answer your questions.

Insulin Pump Therapy 

An insulin pump is a small electronic device, about the size of a smartphone, that can be easily carried on a belt, or inside a pocket, the insulin pump replaces the need for multiple daily injections with a continuous insulin infusion, and also helps to improve your blood sugar levels. Not everybody is suitable for a pump, if you like the idea of taking your insulin with a pump, it’s important you speak to your health care team who will advise you.

Advantages of Insulin Pump Therapy

  • They allow accurate delivery of insulin that is beneficial to people sensitive to small doses, like children.
  • They allow easy adjustments with buttons to either increase or decrease the amount of insulin
  • A pump uses rapid-acting insulin that has an efficient action for a short duration instead of intermediate or slows acting insulin that takes a while to reach their peak values and tend to accumulate under the skin which makes it difficult to predict the action of insulin.
  • You have less risk of having a hypoglycemic attack (Hypo)
  • Pumps store a lot of information that can be used for analysis and treatment planning.

Disadvantages of Insulin Pump Therapy

  • Cost – Most people in the UK who have a pump have it funded by the NHS. But you may have to contribute towards consumables and insure the pump.
  • A higher risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis if the pump malfunctions. This can happen if the battery is discharged, if the insulin is inactivated by heat exposure, if the reservoir runs out, if the tubing becomes loose there is a leak of insulin or the catheter is bent or kinked preventing delivery. Therefore, it is important for pump users to monitor there blood glucose levels frequently.
  • Users develop scar tissue in the area where the cannula is inserted. These scar tissues do not heal easily and soon develop lower insulin sensitivity that requires the user to change spots. A patient may run out of viable spots to wear the pump. The user may also experience skin irritation in the area where the pump is inserted.
  • If you do not change the insertion site of the cannula every two or three days, the risk of infection increases.
  • When you want to sleep be active or get sun at the beach, you may find that being hooked up to the pump can cramp your style and feel bothersome. But remember, you can always disconnect from the pump for short periods without much worry.
  • There is a higher incidence of weight gain when using the pump

Insulin Injection Side Effects 

  • Low blood sugar; Hypo
  • Itching, mild skin rash
  • Thickening or hollowing of the skin where you injected the Insulin, If you experience mild allergic reactions such as swelling, itching or redness around the injection site, experts advise diabetics to consult there GPs. Similarly, sustained nausea and vomiting are signs of insulin allergy.

It is a scary world when you first get diagnosed with type 1 diabetes,(I remember it well). There is so much to take in, new words to understand, diabetic health risks, life changes you need to make, what is a diabetic diet, insulin types, diabetic life insurance, driving with diabetes, and many more things you are going to learn.

What Is A Hypo

The full name for a hypo is hypoglycemia, this is what happens to you when your blood sugars fall below 4mmol/l or in some countries below 70mg/dL.
what are the symptoms of a hypo 

  • Feeling shaky
  • Being nervous or anxious
  • Sweating, chills, and clamminess
  • Irritability or impatience
  • Confusion
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Hunger
  • Nausea
  • Color draining from the skin (pallor)
  • Feeling Sleepy
  • Feeling weak or having no energy
  • Blurred/impaired vision
  • Tingling or numbness in the lips, tongue, or cheeks
  • Headaches
  • Coordination problems, clumsiness
  • Nightmares or crying out during sleep
  • Seizures

How to treat a hypo
Many people tend to want to eat as much as they can until they feel better. This can cause blood glucose levels to shoot way up. The best way to treat a hypo is to take about 15 to 20 grams of quick acting carbs, this could be by taking 3 glucose tablets, a sugary drinkfive jelly baby sized sweets or four to five sugar lumps.15-20g of sugar can be found in 160ml (half a 330ml can) of sugary cola or lemonade, you should then have some slow acting carbs like a sandwich or some fruit.

Why do you have a hypo
Understanding why you get hypos can help you prevent them from happening as often. We don’t always know why hypos happen, but some things make them more likely. These include:

  • missing or delaying a meal or snack
  • not having enough carbs at your last meal
  • doing a lot of exercises without having extra carbohydrate or without reducing your insulin dose
  • taking more insulin than you need
  • drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.

Possible long term complications which may develop
Even a mildly raised glucose level which does not cause any symptoms in the short-term can affect the blood vessels in the long-term. This may lead to some complications (often years after diabetes is first diagnosed). These include: an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and poor circulation; eye and vision problems; kidney damage; nerve damage; serious foot problems;
impotence. In general, the risk of developing complications is reduced if the blood glucose level is well controlled, and other risk factors such as high blood pressure are dealt with

There is yet not a cure for Diabetes so there for its important to attend all your appointments with your healthcare team, test your blood frequently, never miss your insulin, treat any hypos as quickly as you can and try to avoid any long term complications from happening. It’s not an easy ride, but stick with it, keep learning and one day you will be in control of diabetes, not diabetes in control of you.

Please leave any comments or questions you have below, If you are newly diagnosed and have a question, I will try and help you.

If you would like to further read about diabetes, I have put a link here to some useful books you can buy, I do recommend the Carb & Cal Counter book for every diabetic

Thanks, Garry (Type 1)

What Is Type 1 Diabetes

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