Type 1 diabetes

With type 1 diabetes, your body can no longer produce insulin. We all need insulin to live. It does an important job in getting glucose (a kind of sugar from foods and drinks) to move out of our blood and into our cells. Glucose fuels our body.

Without insulin, the glucose builds up in your blood and you start to feel unwell. You go to the toilet more often, which makes you thirsty. You get tired (your cells aren’t getting the energy they need even if you’re eating more) and you may lose weight as your body breaks down fat for energy.

The cells in your pancreas that make insulin have been damaged by your immune system. We don’t know exactly why this happens, but we know it is not caused by lifestyle or diet.

Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, regardless of your weight, fitness or background. And while it is a life-long condition, you can live well and be healthy with the right support.

Learning self-management

Everyone will manage their diabetes differently. But there are some essential things you will need to learn to do. You will not always get it right. And that’s okay. Be safe – ask for help whenever you need it.

Your daily management will involve injecting insulin and monitoring your blood glucose levels (BGLs) several times a day. How much insulin you need will change throughout the day. It will depend on what you are doing, what (and how much) you eat or drink, whether you are stressed or sick. Managing type 1 diabetes is about finding a balance between all these factors. Take your time learning how to balance your daily management.

Your GP or endocrinologist will prescribe insulin for you. A diabetes educator can show you how to inject insulin safely and how to store your insulin. An accredited practising dietitian will help you understand carbohydrates in your diet and how to count the amount of carbohydrates in each of your meals and snacks.

If you would like to learn more about managing type 1 diabetes contact us and ask to talk to one of our health professionals.

Daily life

You may have many questions about life with type 1 diabetes. Can I continue to drive a vehicle? How will I manage at school or at work? What happens when I get sick? What if I’m thinking of having a baby? How will I travel with insulin?

There is plenty of information around these and other topics either in the information booklet you receive when you register with the NDSS, or on the NDSS website. It may help to take the information booklet to your diabetes appointments.

Take your time to find out what you need to know. Ask your health care team, talk to your peers and family.

Most importantly, look after your emotional wellbeing. If you find yourself struggling, or just feeling like you can’t be bothered – it’s time to talk. Learning how to cope with the ups and downs of type 1 diabetes is not something you need to do alone.

If you’re caring for a child or living with a family member or partner with type 1 diabetes, you may also feel overwhelmed at times. Looking after yourself is an important step in caring for your loved one. Start with the information here. If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact us.

Support

You may have a simple question. Or it might be that you want to find out about new technology or research. Whatever you need, get in touch.

FAQs

How is type 1 diabetes different from type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition. This means the body’s defence system mistakenly targets the cells in your pancreas that make insulin. Type 2 diabetes does not involve autoimmunity. Type 2 diabetes develops due to a range of different factors, such as genetics and age. Many people with type 2 diabetes need to inject insulin.

How is type 1 diabetes diagnosed?

The best way to confirm someone has type 1 diabetes is through a blood test that checks for the presence of autoantibodies. Currently, we know of five autoantibodies linked to type 1 diabetes.

What will happen if I don’t take insulin (and I have type 1 diabetes)?

Without insulin your body will break down fat to try and fuel itself. This can lead to a very serious condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which can very quickly become a medical emergency.

Can I prevent or reverse type 1 diabetes?

At this stage there is no way to reverse type 1 diabetes. There is ongoing research looking into prevention or delaying the progression of the autoimmune process. However, there is currently no way to safely prevent type 1 diabetes.

If one of my children has type 1 diabetes, will my other children develop type 1?

There is a risk that brothers or sisters of children with type 1 diabetes may develop the condition if they also carry the diabetes-related autoantibodies. It is possible to screen immediate family members (parents, brothers/sisters or children) of a person diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. There is information on screening here.

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