Diabetes > Diabetes Treatments > Treating Type 1 Diabetes

Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is particularly difficult to control due to the lack of insulin production in the pancreas.

Treatment requires a strict management routine that typically includes a carefully calculated diet, planned physical activity, regular home blood glucose testing, and daily insulin treatments.

Insulin treatments

If you have type 1 diabetes, it is likely that you will need to have regular insulin treatment for the rest of your life to ensure your glucose levels stay normal at all times. There are many types of insulin – some are designed to work very quickly but for a short amount of time, while others are designed to last up to a whole day - and various methods of taking insulin treatment. These include:

Insulin injections

Daily insulin injections are usually required for people with type 1 diabetes. There are two main devices for injecting insulin - a syringe or an injection pen (also called an insulin pen). Insulin pens are a very useful way to deliver insulin as they can be used on the move. They are available as either disposable one-shot devices or come with replaceable cartridges of insulin.

Insulin pump therapy

Insulin pump therapy is an alternative to insulin injections. It involves the use of small insulin pump that allows insulin to flow into your bloodstream (through a needle which is inserted under the skin of your stomach, hips, buttocks, thighs or arms) at a rate that you can control. This replaces the use of injections, but you will need to keep a close eye on your blood glucose levels to ensure you are receiving the right amount of insulin. Many people with diabetes find insulin pumps to be accurate, precise and flexible, although they can be hard to access and expensive.

Monitoring your blood glucose levels

As well as insulin treatment and a healthy diet, a person with diabetes must also regularly check their blood glucose level to make sure it as stable as possible at all times, i.e. not too high or too low (your GP or diabetes care team will tell you what your ideal blood glucose level is). This is normally done at home using a simple finger prick blood test. This must be done each day, although the number of times per day depends on the type of insulin treatment you are taking.

Blood glucose levels are usually measured in terms of how many millimoles of glucose there is in a litre of blood. A normal blood glucose level is between 4.0 - 6.0 millimoles per litre (mmol/l) before meals (preprandial), and less than 10.0 mmol/l two hours after meals (postprandial).

In addition to daily home monitoring, your GP or diabetes care team will also ask you to come in every two to six months for an HbA1c test. This is a special blood test that provides a more long-term analysis of your blood glucose levels, and how well your diabetes treatment plan is working.

Other treatments

If you have type 1 diabetes, you may also be advised to take a number of medicines to reduce the risk of developing serious complication such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. You will also need to have a flu vaccine every year, and a one-off vaccination that protects against some forms of pneumonia and meningitis.

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