Type 1 Diabetes Treatments

People with type 1 diabetes (T1D) can live long, happy lives with proper care and disease management. Advancements in medication types and delivery methods give people the freedom to choose which treatment options work best with their particular circumstance. T1D prognoses can be greatly improved with a combination of treatments and lifestyle choices.

Insulin and other medications

Insulin

Type 1 diabetes is managed through use of a variety of insulins. People with T1D must work closely with their medical team to find the right insulin treatment for their condition. Further information about the types of insulin and their effects are available on our insulin page.

Insulin can be delivered via syringes or pens, pumps or new artificial pancreas systems. Though the administration method, frequency and type of insulin dosage vary on a case-by-case basis, injections may be needed multiple times per day.

Metformin and other medications

Metformin:

Combined with insulin, diet and exercise, type 2 diabetes (T2D) drug metformin is sometimes prescribed to people with T1D to help treat their diabetes. Metformin helps control the body’s blood-sugar levels and how the liver processes sugar.

Pramlintide (Symlin):

Used in conjunction with insulin, pramlintide is often prescribed after other medications prove not as effective as needed. It acts as a hormone to help the body better control blood sugar.

Blood pressure drugs, cholesterol medications and aspirin:

Medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well as aspirin can be prescribed with insulin to help the overall health and treatment of diabetes. Since people with diabetes have an increased chance of cardiovascular disease, these drugs are used in combination with other diabetes medications.

Side effects of medications

The benefits of T1D medications far outweigh their associated side effects. The most common side effects of insulin are injection site reactions, which includes redness, soreness or irritation around the area. People can also experience lowered potassium levels and a risk of hypoglycemia. While these side effects can sound daunting, keep in mind that many people using these medications don’t experience serious side effects at all.

Daily monitoring and lifestyle

Treatment for T1D includes monitoring and lifestyle choices in addition to medications. Each plays a role in the management and mitigation of T1D’s effects.

Blood-sugar monitoring

Knowing your blood-sugar levels and acting accordingly are among the most important ways to treat T1D. Monitoring lets a person know when insulin may be needed to correct high blood sugar or when carbohydrates may be needed to correct low blood sugar. Monitoring blood sugar can be done using traditional blood-sugar meters or continuous glucose monitors (CGMs).

Carbohydrate counting

People with T1D work with an endocrinologist to determine proper insulin-to-carb ratio. This ratio is the amount of insulin needed to balance the intake of a certain amount of carbohydrates (typically measured in grams). Measuring the amount of carbohydrates and factoring the insulin to carb (I:C) ratio helps maintain stable blood-sugar levels after eating.

For example, if your I:C is 1:12 and you have an apple that contains 24g carbs, you would take two units of insulin. Taking those two units of insulin prior to having the apple helps to avoid a high or low blood-sugar fluctuation post-snack.

Exercise and diet

A balanced diet is paramount to diabetic health. People with T1D benefit from a healthy mix of all four food groups, with a focus on a lower intake of empty carbs. Eating well and exercising regularly are important. Ensuring proper nutritional intake and keeping a healthy weight help curb the effects of diabetic wear on the body.

Regular medical check-ups

People with T1D regularly meet with a team of medical professionals (endocrinologist, ophthalmologist and dietitian) to help manage diabetes and to avoid the effects it has on the body.

Diabetes can cause wear on the kidneys, eyes, heart and circulatory system. Some of these secondary health issues may present themselves in consistently elevated blood sugars, dark urine, nausea/vomiting, spotty vision and more. Medical teams should be well informed about your case of diabetes and readily prepared to help.

 

Learn About JDRF Research on T1D