Diabetes type 1 treatment involves blood sugar monitoring, taking insulin, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight in order to delay or prevent complications. The blood sugar level needs to be kept as close to normal as it can be, because controlling the blood sugar can reduce the risk of diabetes-related heart attacks and strokes by as much as 50% (Mayo Clinic, 2007).
Blood Sugar Monitoring
Different type 1 diabetes patients require different types of insulin therapy, and you may have choices, depending upon your circumstances. Options include single dose or multiple dose injections, as well as an insulin pump. It may be necessary to check and record your blood sugar several times each day; careful monitoring is the only way to make sure your blood sugar is where it needs to be.
Even if you are taking insulin regularly and being careful about what you eat, the amount of sugar in your blood can change quickly. A few factors that can affect your blood sugar include food, physical activity, medication, illness, alcohol, stress, and menstruation or menopause.
In addition to daily blood sugar monitoring, your health care provider may want you to have a test called A1C, to monitor your blood sugar average over a two to three month period. Although daily blood sugar tests are important, A1C testing is a better method of determining how well your overall type I diabetes treatment plan is working. An A1C level which is elevated indicates that there may be a need to change some aspect of your treatment, such as the amount of insulin you’re receiving or your diet.
Insulin and Other Medications
If you have type 1 diabetes, you will need insulin to survive. Insulin must be injected because the enzymes in the stomach interfere with insulin if it is taken orally. The injections can be given via a syringe and needle or an insulin pen.
Another option is an insulin pump. This device is worn on the outside of the body, typically at the waist, and is about the size of a cell phone. A catheter is inserted under the skin of the abdomen and the pump can be set to deliver specific amounts of insulin automatically as necessary throughout the day. The pump can be adjusted to allow the delivery of more or less insulin, depending upon the external factors affecting the blood sugar level.
There are various types of insulin on the market today, including rapid-acting insulin, long-acting insulin and intermediate options. Your health care provider may prescribe a variety of insulin types to use throughout the day and night to ensure you’re getting the best treatment possible.
Sometimes other medications are prescribed in the treatment of type I diabetes. For example, some patients take a drug called pramlintide to decrease the movement of food throughout the stomach after eating. This halts the sharp increase in blood sugar that occurs after meals. Additionally, low-dose aspirin therapy may be prescribed to prevent heart and blood vessel disease.
A Healthy Diet
Contrary to what the media may tell you, the diabetic diet is not boring or bland. Instead, patients with type 1 diabetes eat fruits, vegetables, grains, and foods that are high in nutrition value and low in animal products and sugars. Sweets are even allowed once in a while, as long as they’re a part of a carefully designed meal plan. The fact is, this is the best diet for everyone in the family. The key for patients with type I diabetes is consistency. In order to maintain a balance in your blood sugar, it’s important to eat carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the same proportion and at the same time each day.
Everyone needs regular aerobic exercise, and people with type I diabetes are no exception. Check with your physician before beginning an exercise program. Then choose activities you enjoy, as this is the best way to ensure you’ll continue with a regular program of physical activity. Walking, swimming and biking are all great choices. You should try to exercise for at least 30 minutes at least 5 days each week. Stretching before and after exercise is important too. If you’re not used to exercise, make sure you start slowly and gradually build up to a more rigorous routine. Physical activity lowers blood sugar, and an added benefit is overall heart health.
A pancreatic transplant is the only potential cure for type I diabetes, but this area of treatment is still developing (Mayo Clinic, 2007). The side effects of organ rejection are extremely serious, so for now the transplant procedure is only recommended for those whose diabetes can’t be controlled or those who have serious complications.
Mayo Clinic Online. “Type 1 Diabetes Treatment Overview.” October 2007. https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/type-1-diabetes/DS00329/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs.