The Beginners Guide to Type 1 Diabetes
Our Type 1 Diagnosis
Like us you probably knew nothing about Type 1 diabetes until the day you were faced with it head on.
It often comes out of the blue as a complete shock and you are suddenly presented with a whole new way of life including injections, finger pricks, counting carbohydrates, monitoring every mouthful, weighing food, hospital clinics, meetings and training with specialist nurses.
If that’s not enough you have to face the inevitable of having to break the stereotypes of all those around you who also like to think they know more about diabetes than you in their naivety.
Our world was turned upside down 2 and a half years ago when our eldest daughter was 4. Having noticed various symptoms such as extreme thirst, hunger and feeling very tired we took her to the Out of Hours doctor who confirmed it was type 1.
We had no idea at the time how much this would change our lives. It has been and still is a roller coaster ride not only for our daughter but for us all as a family.
We have learnt so much on our journey so far and we have really appreciated the support of other local families going through the same thing. We really want to be able to encourage and educate other families, friends and extended families and we also have lots of practical tips and every day tools to make living with this condition a little more bearable. So we would love to stay in touch with you.
What is Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to incorrectly target and attack the insulin producing beta-cells in the pancreas.
It continues to attack the beta cells until the pancreas is incapable of producing any insulin at all causing blood glucose levels to continue rising.
People with Type 1 diabetes need to inject themselves with insulin to compensate for the death of their beta cells. Everyone with Type 1 is insulin-dependant.
Type 1 has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. It just happens, the cause is still unknown and currently cannot be stopped but you there is nothing you could have done to prevent it.
Insulin is needed by us all to live. It plays an essential role in allowing the glucose in our blood to enter the cells to give energy to our bodies, a bit like a key opening the door to the cells.
With Type 1 diabetes, your body still breaks down the carbohydrate from food and drink and turns it into glucose (sugar). But when the glucose enters your bloodstream, there’s no insulin to allow it into your body’s cells causing more and more glucose to build up in your bloodstream.
Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes
- Before diagnosis, your body tries to get rid of the excess glucose in the blood through the kidneys causing you to wee a lot.
- Increased urination causes extreme thirst.
- Extreme fatigue and tiredness is caused because the glucose cannot reach the cells to give you energy.
- Weight loss often occurs because the body tries to release energy by breaking down the fat stores.
- Detailed blog post dedicated to this topic.
Facts about Type 1 diabetes
- About 10% of the UK population have diabetes, .
- Often (but not always) diagnosed in childhood.
- Cannot be controlled without taking insulin.
What is type 2 diabetes?
In Type 2 diabetes, the body does not attack the beta cells. Instead, the body loses its ability to respond to insulin causing insulin resistance and the blood glucose levels to rise.
In Type 2 diabetes, your body still breaks down carbohydrates from food and drink turning it into glucose, the pancreas responds by producing insulin but the insulin doesn’t work properly so blood levels rise and more insulin is released. This puts strain on the pancreas and can eventually causes the body to destroy the beta cells, diminishing insulin production further.
Type 2 can initially be treated without the need for medication.
It is unknown why some people develop a resistance to insulin, certain lifestyle factors such as excess weight, inactivity as well as certain genetic and environmental factors can often contribute to its onset.
Newly Diagnosed – What now?
In the early days after diagnosis Type 1 will take over your life and your mind will be consumed with endless information about injections, insulin, carb counting as well as hospital visits, training with the specialists nurses and school staff or work colleagues and more BUT I want to encourage you that it does get easier, although it never goes away it quickly becomes a part of every day life and if its your child that is affected, they are SO resilient you will be amazed.
I want to help you to live alongside it but not let it RULE YOUR LIFE!
I want to share with you so many practical tips and resources to help make it more manageable including Christmas/Easter carb counting tips, flash cards for school staff, lunch cards.
I want to open your eyes to the current research and up and coming technology to give you a hope that we are constantly heading closer towards a cure.
Type 1 community
There is a huge community out there all facing the same struggles so connect with them on social media, you will find a whole host of information.
Local Type 1 family support groups – look up one in your area. We are part of an amazing family support group in our area and it has been no end of help and so good to have real people nearby and a phone call away to chat too and also so valuable for our kids to hang out with other Type 1 kids. It suddenly becomes a lot more normal when they realise they are not the only one.
Managing Type 1 Diabetes
- Blood sugar testing is an essential part in managing Type 1 diabetes as glucose levels rise and fall continuously.
- Insulin needs to be injected 4/5 times a day or administered via a pump every time carbohydrates are consumed.
- Many factors cause a change in blood glucose including: food eaten, exercise, the weather, stress, excitement, anxiety, hormones, illness.
- Every day is different.
- Playing the role of a major organ (the pancreas) is a 247 job with no time off!
- It is not text book.
- It can be managed very well and should not stop you or your child from doing anything that you want to.
- Yes you can still eat sweet things aslong as insulin is given too.
- Counting carbohydrates will become part of every day life.
- Insulin is not a cure.
Would you like to download my freebie to remind you of when to test your Type 1 child?
Common Questions about Type 1 Diabetes.
Is there a cure for Type 1?
There is currently no cure for Type 1 but it can be treated successfully by administering insulin, either by injections or pump, and by following a healthy, balanced diet and getting regular physical activity.
There is a whole host of exciting research underway which will hopefully one day lead to a cure. For all current research visit.
How serious is Type 1?
Type 1 is a very serious condition, without insulin it is impossible to survive.
It requires constant monitoring of blood glucose levels and balancing of carbohydrates to insulin needed.
Today, the condition is very manageable and with good management and a healthy lifestyle the risk of long term complications can be significantly reduced.
It is one of the only conditions where patients are given both a lifesaving yet lethal drug and left to make daily decisions and calculations on doses to be given.
How do I explain Type 1 to young children?
It seems daunting having to explain Type 1 to our young children but keep it simple and gradually with time you can give them more information. They very quickly begin to understand what its all about and take it in their stride. There are some really good books and short video clips explaining Type 1 which you will find in my Teaching Kids about Type 1 post here.
The most important thing you can remind your child is that they have not done anything wrong at all to end up with Type 1 and that with a little bit of extra care they can do the same as any other child.
What is carbohydrate counting?
The management of Type 1 is all down to the balancing of carbohydrates eaten to the amount of insulin needed.
Eating carbohydrates increases blood glucose levels. Injecting insulin lowers blood glucose levels.
At clinic, ratios will be worked out specific to you or your child which determines how much insulin is needed per gram of carbohydrate consumed.
Carb counting seems very complicated at first but there are lots of helpful resources, books and phone apps to make it easier. You will soon become a whiz.
What’s the difference between a hypo and hyper?
- A hypo is when blood glucose levels drop below 4mmol. This must be treated immediately with fast acting glucose.
- A hyper is when blood glucose levels rise above 13.9mmol. Insulin is required to bring the blood glucose back down into range.
Finally . . .
To summarize Type 1 diabetes is life changing, its overwhelming and its not easy but with the right support it is very manageable and there’s nothing your child cannot do. it affects the whole family but you it should not stop you or your child from doing anything.
You are not alone, there’s thousands of other families out there facing the same challenges every day and here is a really good place to start. I want to provide you with encouragement, practical tips and resources to make the day to day management easier for everyone involved including parents, grandparents, carers, teachers, school friends and of course our wonderfully brave type 1 kiddies who make us proud every day.
I’d love to hear your story and if there’s anything at all you feel you could do with information on or support with right now then please leave a comment below, I’d love to connect with you.