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Treating type 1 diabetes

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Paper with words diabetes type 1 and glasses.

Treatments for type 1 diabetes

There isn’t a cure for type 1 diabetes so the primary aim of treatment is to keep blood glucose levels as near to normal as possible. The quicker levels are brought under control the better the long term prospect of damage.

You will be under the care of a team that will include your GP, specialist diabetic nurses as well as various consultants and dietitians, Treatment should include a healthy diet and reducing risk factors such as smoking that means complications are less likely. You should try to get regular exercise, drink alcohol only in moderation as well as keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels low.

Type 1 diabetes requires the use of insulin treatment to keep blood glucose levels as normal as possible. You will need to take this treatment for the rest of your life. In addition to this you will have to stick to a healthy diet and limit your consumption of sweet sugary foods. Insulin can only be given by injection or a pump because if it was given by tablets your stomach juices would destroy the insulin.

There are different types of insulin available your diabetic nurse will discuss these with you to find which one works best for you. Insulin can be given by an injection or by a portable pump. An insulin injection is the most common and is usually injected before meals. The injection is usually given in the arm, thigh, buttocks or abdomen. You may be given a small needle to use or a pen type syringe, which are easier to use. Most people will have to carry out insulin injections 2-4 times a day. When injecting always wash hands  and ensure you use a clean needle every time.

As an alternative to injections an insulin pump can be used. The pump, which is about the size of playing cards is attached to the body by a long tube called a catheter with a needle at the end. The needle can be inserted into the stomach, hips, thighs, buttocks or arm. The pump delivers a constant amount of insulin into your body. If you struggle to control your glucose levels then this might be the better option. This option is also recommended for children under 12 years.

The 6 main types of insulin are:

Rapid-acting analogue – This one is injected just before food,with food or after food. It starts to work in about 15 minutes and usually lasts 2-5 hours.

Long-acting analogue – Usually injected once a day and lasts approximately 24 hours

Short-acting insulin – This is injected 15-30 minutes before a meal.

Medium and long acting insulin – These are usually taken twice a day.

Mixed insulin – A combination of medium acting and short acting insulin.

Mixed analogue – A combination of medium acting insulin and rapid-acting insulin.

Monitoring diabetes

It will be referred to many times but regular testing really is essential to proper management and prevention of complications. Your levels will change at different times of day and with different activities. Make sure you always take your medication at the prescribed times and don’t miss any meals. The times you take insulin might vary depending on your activities. For more detailed information on monitoring and living with diabetes click here.