Type one Diabetes (T1D) is a disease without a cure, but in an age of technological advances and a multitude of scientific discovery, there is an abundance of treatment options that can make living with T1D much easier. After being diagnosed and having all kinds of words and acronyms thrown at you, it can be overwhelming and confusing when trying to understand how to treat and manage your diabetes. We wanted to outline treatment for type 1 diabetes and give you a quick overview.
Blood Sugar Monitoring
T1Ds must check their blood sugar levels daily, and can do this with a blood glucose meter, lancet, and test strips. The test strip is entered into the blood glucose meter, and then the T1D pricks their finger to draw up blood. Place the test strip into the blood, and through some science, the blood glucose meter will tell you what your sugar level is. Using this information, you will know if you need to treat a low (with juice or glucose tablets) or a high (by giving a dose of insulin). Another way to track blood sugar over a longer period of time is through an A1C test, which is usually administered every three months at the endocrinologist’s office. This value reflects your average blood glucose as being high, low or in range over the past three months and is important for creating treatment plans.
It is vital that T1Ds keep track of their carb intake by counting the carbohydrates they intake during a meal/snack. The amount of carbs you eat is necessary for calculating how much insulin is needed to bring glucose levels back down to the normal range.
After a T1D diagnosis, most immediately start on insulin shots. Insulin shots are a way to insert outside insulin sources into the body and lower glucose levels. It is a fairly simple process; calculate the dosage based on your blood sugar level and carbohydrate intakes, dial the dosage on the insulin pen, and then insert it into the body. Although daunting in the beginning, it is a vital part of management and you become accustomed to it.
A pretty new option for inserting insulin into the body is through an insulin pump. An insulin pump is a device that attaches to the body and delivers insulin shots without the T1D having to inject a shot every time they eat. A major advantage is that it has the ability to calculate insulin dosages on its own, taking that burden off of the T1D. There are many different brands of insulin pumps, each having their own key features that can be considered when deciding on a specific one to use.
Continuous Glucose Monitors
A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is another aspect of technology that significantly eases treatment and allows for a quick understanding of blood sugar patterns and reduce the need to prick the finger. CGMs work by inserting a small glucose sensor into the skin, which can read and transmit a blood sugar reading to a receiver, such as your mobile phone. This eliminates the need for pricking the finger and creates access to quick insulin delivery when needed. By observing the trends in sugar levels that is received, it is easy to create a management plan fit for one’s needs and allows for better management.
Although basic, exercise is very effective in lowering blood sugar levels quickly and over time while also reduces the risk of insulin resistance. It is important for T1Ds to get daily exercise in order to keep their average blood sugar levels in range and prevent other diabetes related issues later in life.
Research continues every day and many new treatment options are being explored. All of this research is exponentially growing and working to create new treatment options, and once available it will revolutionize type 1 diabetes management. But for now, we have ways to treat T1D that help make living with it a little bit easier.
We hope this overview gave you an idea of what to expect if you are newly diagnosed, diagnosed for years, or have a friend or family member with T1D. Please consult your doctor before deciding on treatment options.
Thank you to Carsen Masterton for the creation of this blog post.
-JDRF Greater Western Carolinas