How To Manage Diabetes At Home – Type 1 diabetes is a chronic (lifelong) autoimmune disease that prevents your pancreas from producing insulin. Daily management of insulin injections and blood glucose monitoring is required. Both children and adults can be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually start out mild and gradually get worse or more intense, which can happen over days, weeks, or months. See your doctor as soon as possible if you or your child have these symptoms.
Insulin is an important hormone that regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood. Under normal circumstances, insulin works in the following steps:
When you don’t have enough insulin, too much sugar builds up in your blood, leading to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and preventing your body from using the food you eat for energy. This can lead to serious health problems or even death if left untreated. People with type 1 diabetes need synthetic insulin every day to live and be healthy.
While type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are both forms of diabetes mellitus (as opposed to diabetes insipidus) that lead to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), they are different from each other.
In type 2 diabetes (T2D), your pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin and/or your body doesn’t always use that insulin properly – usually because of insulin resistance. Lifestyle factors, including obesity and lack of exercise, can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, as can genetic factors.
Type 2 diabetes usually affects older adults but is becoming more common in children. Type 1 diabetes usually develops in children or young adults, but people of any age can get it.
Anyone can develop type 1 diabetes (T1D) at any age, although the most common ages of diagnosis are between ages 4 and 6 and early puberty (10 to 14 years).
In the United States, non-Hispanic white people are most likely to get type 1 diabetes, and it affects people assigned female at birth and people assigned male at birth almost equally.
Although you don’t have to have a family member with type 1 diabetes to develop the disease, having a first-degree family member (parent or sibling) with type 1 diabetes increases your risk of developing it.
Type 1 diabetes is relatively common. There are approximately 1.24 million people with type 1 diabetes in the United States, and that number is expected to increase to five million by 2050.
Type 1 diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in children in the United States, although the disease can also be diagnosed in adults.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually start out mild and gradually get worse or more intense, which can happen over days, weeks, or months. This is because your pancreas is producing less and less insulin.
If you or your child have these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor and get tested for type 1 diabetes as soon as possible. The earlier you are diagnosed, the better.
If diagnosis is delayed, untreated type 1 diabetes can be life-threatening due to a complication called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Seek emergency medical attention if you or your child have any combination of the following symptoms:
Type 1 diabetes develops when your immune system accidentally attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. This destruction can happen over months or years, eventually leading to a complete lack (deficiency) of insulin.
Although scientists don’t yet know the exact cause of type 1 diabetes, they believe there is a strong genetic component. The risk of developing the disease without a family history is around 0.4%. If your birth mother has type 1 diabetes, your risk is 1% to 4% and your risk is 3% to 8% if your birth father has it. If both of your biological parents have type 1 diabetes, your risk of developing diabetes is up to 30%.
Scientists believe that if you have a genetic predisposition to developing type 1 diabetes, certain factors, such as a virus or environmental toxins, can trigger your immune system to attack cells in your pancreas.
Type 1 diabetes is relatively easy to diagnose. If you or your child have symptoms of type 1 diabetes, your doctor will order the following tests:
Your doctor will also likely order the following tests to evaluate your general health and to check for diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious acute complication of undiagnosed or untreated type 1 diabetes:
An endocrinologist — a healthcare provider who specializes in treating hormone-related disorders — treats people with type 1 diabetes. Some endocrinologists specialize in diabetes.
You need to see your endocrinologist regularly to make sure your type 1 diabetes management is working well. Your insulin needs will change throughout your life.
People with type 1 diabetes need synthetic insulin several times a day, every day, to live and be healthy. You should also try to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range.
There are different types of synthetic insulin. They each start to work at different speeds and last for different lengths of time in your body. You may need to use more than one type.
Some types of inulin are more expensive than others. Work with your endocrinologist to find the right type of insulin for your needs.
Along with your background insulin level (often referred to as your basal rate), you need to ingest certain amounts of insulin when you eat and correct high blood sugar levels.
The amount of insulin you need each day will vary throughout your life and in specific circumstances. For example, you typically need higher doses of insulin during puberty, pregnancy, and when you’re taking steroid medication.
Because of this, it’s important to see your endocrinologist regularly—usually at least three times a year—to make sure your insulin doses and overall diabetes management are working for you.
People with type 1 diabetes need to closely monitor their blood sugar throughout the day. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is the best way to avoid health complications. You can monitor your blood sugar as follows:
Your healthcare provider will tell you what blood sugar target range you should be in. It depends on a variety of factors, including your:
A big part of treating type 1 diabetes is counting the carbohydrates (carbohydrates) in the foods and drinks you consume to give yourself the right dose of insulin.
Carbohydrates are a type of macronutrient found in certain foods and beverages, such as grains, candy, legumes, and milk. When your body digests food and drink containing carbohydrates, it converts them into glucose, your body’s preferred form of energy. This increases the blood sugar level.
Because of this, people with type 1 diabetes need to inject insulin when they eat carbohydrates.
Carb counting at its most basic level involves counting the number of grams of carbohydrate in a meal (by reading the nutrition label) and matching it with your insulin dose.
They use what’s called the insulin-to-carb ratio to calculate how much insulin you need to take to control your blood sugar while eating. Insulin-to-carbohydrate delivery varies from person to person and may even be different at different times of the day. Your endocrinologist will help you determine the ratio of insulin to carbohydrates.
The main side effect of insulin treatment for diabetes is low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Low blood sugar can occur when you inject too much insulin due to food intake and/or activity level. Hypoglycemia is usually considered to be below 70 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter).
The symptoms of low blood sugar can come on quickly, and people experience them in different ways. The signs of hypoglycemia are uncomfortable, but they offer good warning that you need to take action before your blood sugar drops any further.
If you have symptoms of hypoglycemia but cannot test your blood sugar, use the 15-15 rule until you feel better.
There is currently no cure for type 1 diabetes, but scientists are working on ways to prevent or slow the progression of the disease through studies like TrialNet.
Scientists are also working to research pancreatic islet transplants — an experimental treatment for people with brittle diabetes.
Pancreatic islets are collections of cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Your immune system attacks these cells in type 1 diabetes. A pancreatic islet transplant replaces the destroyed islets with new ones that produce and release insulin. In this procedure, islets are removed from the pancreas of an organ donor and transplanted into a person with type 1 diabetes. Because researchers are still studying pancreatic islet transplants, the procedure is only available to people participating in the study.
Because type 1 diabetes can run in families, your doctor may test your family members for the autoantibodies that cause the disease. Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet, an international research network, also offers autoantibody testing for family members of people with type 1 diabetes.
The presence of autoantibodies, even without symptoms of diabetes, means you are more likely to develop type 1 diabetes. If you have a sibling, child, or parent with type 1 diabetes, you may want to get autoantibodies
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