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Learning About Type 1 Diabetes

Insulin pen

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is a disease that starts when your body stops making a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps your body use sugar from your food as energy or store it for later use. If you don't have insulin, too much sugar stays in your blood.

Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, but it usually starts in children or young adults. It is a lifelong disease, but with treatment and a healthy lifestyle you can live a long and healthy life.

What can you expect with type 1 diabetes?

You'll keep hearing about how important it is to keep your blood sugar within a target range. That's because over time, high blood sugar can lead to serious problems. It can:

  • Harm your eyes, nerves, and kidneys.
  • Damage your blood vessels, leading to heart disease and stroke.
  • Reduce blood flow and cause nerve damage to parts of your body, especially your feet. This can cause slow healing and pain when you walk.

A more sudden problem can happen when the blood sugar level gets so high that a serious chemical imbalance develops in the blood. This condition can be life-threatening and needs quick treatment.

When people hear the word "diabetes," they often think of problems like these. But daily care and treatment can help prevent or delay these problems. The goal is to keep your blood sugar in a target range. It is the best way to reduce your chance of having more problems from diabetes.

What are the symptoms?

You experience most symptoms of type 1 diabetes when your blood sugar is either too high or too low.

Common symptoms of high blood sugar include:

  • Thirst.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Weight loss.
  • Blurry vision.

Common symptoms of low blood sugar include:

  • Sweating.
  • Shakiness.
  • Weakness.
  • Hunger.
  • Confusion.

If you wait too long to get medical care when your blood sugar goes too high, you may develop diabetic ketoacidosis. Symptoms include:

  • Flushed, hot, dry skin.
  • A strong, fruity breath odour.
  • Restlessness, drowsiness, or trouble waking up.
  • Lack of interest in normal activities.
  • Rapid, deep breathing.
  • Loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and vomiting.
  • Confusion.

How is type 1 diabetes treated?

To treat type 1 diabetes, you need insulin. You can give yourself insulin through an insulin pump, an insulin pen, or a syringe (needle).

When you have type 1 diabetes, it's more important than ever to have a healthy lifestyle. Here are other things you can do to stay healthy:

  • Check your blood sugar level often, as advised by your doctor.
  • Eat a balanced diet that spreads carbohydrate evenly throughout the day.
  • Control your blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can make health problems worse. This includes problems you might have with type 1 diabetes. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Limit alcohol to 3 drinks a day for men and 2 drinks a day for women. Too much alcohol can cause health problems.
  • Get at least 2½ hours of exercise a week. Walking is a good choice. You also may want to do other activities, such as running, swimming, cycling, or playing tennis or team sports.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.