Type 1 Diabetes in Teens: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease. It develops when your body can't make enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps sugar (also called glucose) get inside your body's cells. Your cells use glucose for energy.

Without insulin, sugar and acids called ketones build up in your blood and can cause other health problems. These include diseases of the heart, large blood vessels, eyes, nerves, and kidneys.

This is a busy time of your life, and diabetes might seem like too much to deal with. You might be getting to bed late, sleeping in, and maybe eating a lot of fast food—all the things lots of people do at your age. You might even feel like ignoring your diabetes or pretending you don't have it.

But now is really the perfect time for you to start learning what you need to do to manage your diabetes. You're at a good age to start taking more responsibility for your own health. That includes paying attention to your blood sugar levels, eating healthy foods, and getting plenty of exercise.

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're having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Work with your doctor and your family to create a plan that'll help you take responsibility for your:
    • Medicine. Follow the insulin schedule that your doctor gives you.
    • Testing. Check and record your blood sugar as often as directed. These records can help your doctor see how you are doing and adjust your treatment if needed. Keep track of any symptoms you have, such as low blood sugar. And write down any changes in your activities, diet, or insulin use.
    • Eating. Eat healthy foods, including lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
    • Exercise. Get plenty of exercise every day. Go for a walk or jog, ride your bike, or play sports with friends.
    • Drinking. Teens may use alcohol for many reasons, but alcohol may cause low blood sugar and can mask symptoms of low blood sugar.
    • Smoking. Don't smoke. Smoking affects your blood vessels and can lead to diabetes problems earlier in life.
  • Work with your doctor to write up a sick-day plan for what to do on days when you are sick. Your blood sugar can go up or down, depending on your illness and whether you can keep food down. Call your doctor or nurse call line when you are sick, to see if you need to adjust your insulin.
  • Talk to your doctor, your parents, your friends, or a counsellor if you feel afraid, sad, angry, or even guilty about having diabetes.
  • Find out if your school has rules about students carrying their own medicines, needles, and blood sugar meters. Many schools require that students get special permission or that supplies be kept at the school.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness), or you suddenly become very sleepy or confused. (You may have very low blood sugar.)
  • You have symptoms of high blood sugar, such as:
    • Blurred vision.
    • Trouble staying awake or being woken up.
    • Fast, deep breathing.
    • Breath that smells fruity.
    • Belly pain, not feeling hungry, and vomiting.
    • Feeling confused.
    • Urinating often.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are sick and cannot control your blood sugar.
  • You have been vomiting or have had diarrhea for more than 6 hours.
  • Your blood sugar stays higher than the level your doctor has set for you.
  • You have symptoms of low blood sugar, such as:
    • Sweating.
    • Feeling nervous, shaky, and weak.
    • Extreme hunger and slight nausea.
    • Dizziness and headache.
    • Blurred vision.
    • Confusion.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have a hard time knowing when your blood sugar is low.
  • You have trouble keeping your blood sugar in the target range.
  • You often have problems controlling your blood sugar.
  • You have symptoms of long-term diabetes problems, such as:
    • New vision changes.
    • New pain, numbness, or tingling in your hands or feet.
    • Skin problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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