What Is Type 1 Diabetes treatment?

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In this article, we will learn what is type 1 diabetes treatment.

Why?

Because until our grandson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I wasn’t aware that there were different types of diabetes let alone the fact that there are different treatments for each.

I figured that if I wasn’t aware of this, in spite of the fact that my own mother had diabetes, then I am sure there are others who are also unaware.

Maybe the information you learn in this article may help you recognize symptoms either in yourself or in a loved one and inspire you to seek medical treatment before any complications arise.

I am so grateful my daughter recognized symptoms in her son and took him to get checked out by their doctor right away.

As a family, we have learned a ton and now we share our experiences to hopefully help others.

Before we learn about treatment, it is important we first have a solid understanding of what type 1 diabetes really is.

What is type 1 diabetes?

As I mentioned earlier, I had no idea what type 1 diabetes was until June 2019. This day will forever be etched into my memory. What Is Type 1 Diabetes - Alex have breakfast in hospital

You see we were happily working out in our yard when the phone rang, it was our daughter calling from the hospital and through her tears, she was trying to tell us that our 4-year-old grandson, Alex, was just diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and was being admitted to hospital.

To say we were shocked would be an understatement. We felt so much more. We were scared, confused, wondering what we did wrong as a family to have this happen to such a young child.

Turns out we didn’t do anything wrong.

For some reason, Alex’s immune system attacked and killed the insulin-producing beta cells in his pancreas. When this happened his body was not making enough insulin for his body to be able to use the glucose (sugar) from his food as energy.

We knew he was small for his age but we didn’t realize that his cells were not getting enough nutrients.

One of the scariest things about diabetes is that Alex doesn’t look sick, you can’t tell by looking at him that he has such a life-threatening condition, which is why it is so important to educate people.

His body started showing some of the classic symptoms which our daughter recognized and thankfully immediately made a doctor’s appointment.

Symptoms

So what are the symptoms of type 1 diabetes? There are a variety of symptoms. Some may develop quite quickly (as is the case with Alex) and others develop slowly over time. Most type 1 diabetics are diagnosed in childhood or early adulthood but can be diagnosed later as well.

Symptoms can include:What Is Type 1 Diabetes? - unusual thirst

  • unusual thirst
  • frequent urination
  • weight change (gain or loss)
  • extreme fatigue
  • blurred vision
  • cuts or sores that either don’t heal or take longer than normal
  • frequent or recurring infections
  • tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • for men – trouble getting or maintaining an erection
  • diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)

With our grandson, it was the frequent urination (like every 10 minutes) and the excessive thirst (he would down a glass of water like he had been stranded on a dessert for a week even though he just had a drink) that tipped off our daughter.

What is type 1 diabetes treatment?

Alex remained in the hospital for a week while his diabetes care team came up with his unique diabetes care plan. His parents were constantly by his side, day and night. This meant we had his older sisters stay with us.

During that first week, our daughter and son-in-law were learning how to care for their son. A crash course on managing type 1 diabetes. I know they appreciated learning in the hospital with supervision from the medical professionals.

It wasn’t long before they were pros themselves and began to teach us.

Of course, I spent that first week looking online for anything and everything I could find about type 1 diabetes and how to manage it.

It is important to note that there is no cure but with careful management, type 1 diabetics can lead a relatively normal life.

Healthy DietWhat Is Type 1 Diabetes? - Canada Food Guide

Part of your diabetes care team will likely be a dietician. You will work with your dietician to help determine the best diet for you.

Alex eats just a regular healthy, well-balanced meal plan.

As a family, we have always eaten healthy so for Alex, nothing really changed as far as what he eats.

Sometimes when his sugars are low he needs a snack when he really doesn’t want one but usually, he has to wait for a snack because his sugars are too high.

You can follow Canada’s food guide for a basic idea of what to eat.

Fill half your plate with fruit and vegetables, one quarter with lean protein such as chicken, fish or lean red meat.

The last quarter is for healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains, brown rice, sweet potato. I would go easy on the starchy veggies like potatoes, corn and peas.

Watch your portion sizes and decrease your consumption of sugars and sweets.

Water is your drink of choice. Reserve fruit juice for when sugars are low and you need a boost. Avoid soft drinks altogether.

Regular Exercise

Regular exercise is an important part of any healthy lifestyle and there is no exception for type 1 diabetics.What Is Type 1 Diabetes treatment? - cycling

The two main types of exercise are:

Aerobic Exercise is any physical exercise ranging in intensity from low to high that really gets the heart pumping and requires large amounts of oxygen and is also known as cardio exercise. Examples of aerobic exercise would be running, jogging, swimming, cycling, stair climbing, and walking.

Anaerobic Exercise is intense, but shorter in duration than aerobic exercise and doesn’t use large doses of oxygen. It breaks down the glucose in the body without oxygen. An example of anaerobic exercise would be weight training or bodyweight resistance training.

It really isn’t difficult to ensure Alex gets enough exercise. I mean he is a 6-year-old little boy who loves being outside and having adventures.

As a family, our adventures vary with the seasons.

Summer activities would include, hiking, swimming, bicycling and sailing.

In winter we would switch to snowshoeing, skating, and skiing.

Adequate Sleep

For a type 1 diabetic getting enough sleep can be a challenge. That is because blood sugars can fluctuate at night as well.

When Alex was first diagnosed my daughter would get up every hour and check his blood glucose levels.

Sometimes he would drop too low and she would have to wake Alex for a few sips of apple juice. Other times he would wake up with leg cramps usually when his sugars were too high.

Since switching to a continuous glucose monitor, nighttime checks are much easier and faster. He is also a little more stable now so she only wakes every three hours to test him.

Some CGM’s(continuous glucose monitors) have a built-in alarm for low blood sugars in which case it would be even easier to get a full night’s sleep. Alex’s CGM doesn’t have this feature, unfortunately, and their insurance doesn’t cover one that does so someone has to get up in the night to check his sugars.

When Alex has sleepovers with us, I get up in the night to check his sugars. It really isn’t that bad, then again I am not the one doing it all the time.

Each day you will need to –

As a type 1 diabetic, there are some things you will quickly need to learn in order to properly take care of yourself so you can feel your best.

At first, you will feel quite awkward but before you know it these tasks will become just a normal part of your day and you will be quite proficient.

These skills will include:

Monitoring Blood Glucose Levels

What Is Type 1 Diabetes treatment? - place drop of blood on test strip

In order to avoid diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) from high sugars(hyperglycemia) or diabetic coma from low sugars(hypoglycemia), you will need to learn to monitor your blood glucose (sugar) levels.

To do this you will prick your finger with a lancet and place a drop of blood on a test strip that has been placed in the glucose monitor.

The monitor will show your results.

You will then treat the high or low if necessary according to your diabetes care plan.

Counting Carbs at Mealtimes

Carb counting simply means keeping track of exactly how many carbohydrates you eat each meal so you can accurately calculate your insulin dose.

Yes, it means you will weigh or measure all your carbs and you will become very proficient at reading nutrition labels.

Alex’s diabetes care team provided us with ratios for each meal to calculate his insulin dosing.What Is Type 1 Diabetes treatment? - mealtime ratios for calculating insulin dose

Let me explain how this works by using his lunchtime ratio and calculate a typical lunch.

Let’s say that for lunch Alex ate 26.5 grams of carbs and his blood glucose before eating was at 17 mmol/L (which is a little high).

I would take 26.5 divided by 25 which equals 1.06, I would round down to 1 unit and add half unit because his premeal glucose levels were a little high.

That makes his lunchtime dosage 1.5 units of insulin, see it really isn’t that difficult but it will be some time yet before Alex does his own carb counting.

I realize most people may have higher insulin doses and this does seem quite low but Alex is not a big kid and these are the ratios from his doctors. He will require higher doses as he grows and eats more food.

Each type 1 diabetic will have their own ratios based on their height and weight and where their blood sugars normally run.

Always follow your doctor’s advice.

Injecting insulin

What Is Type 1 Diabetes treatment? - insulin injections

There are several methods of injecting insulin:

  • traditional syringes
  • pen needles
  • insulin pumps

We use a pen needle to deliver Alex’s insulin. They are very easy to dial the dose and inject the insulin.

Alex usually has his long-acting insulin at bedtime and his regular insulin with each meal.

Sometimes if he is running too high we will give him a bolus shot.

It doesn’t take very long before you are very proficient at giving the injections. They don’t take long and it doesn’t even bother Alex anymore. We let him select the injection site.

With a minimum of 4 shots a day it doesn’t take long for his little belly to look like a pincushion as you can see in the photo.

Hypoglycemia

When blood glucose (sugars) goes too low it is called hypoglycemia.

There are different levels of hypoglycemia ranging from mild to severe.

Mild to moderate hypoglycemia can be treated at home by having a snack or sugary treat to help bring blood sugars back up closer to the recommended range.What Is Type 1 Diabetes treatment? - fast acting sugar snacks

Only take 15 g of carbs at a time and do a finger poke after 15 minutes to ensure the blood sugars are rising. If not take another 15 grams of fast-acting carbs.

With Alex, we find that 5 skittles usually does the trick or 1/4 cup of apple juice, but remember he is only 6.

We take snacks and juice everywhere we go so we are able to treat lows before they become severe.

Treating Severe Hypoglycemia

In the event of severe hypoglycemia, the patient is usually unconscious and will require emergency medical treatment as What Is Type 1 Diabetes treatment? - Glucagon emergency kitfollows:

  1. Confirm low blood sugar by doing a finger check
  2. Mix entire solution from the syringe into the vial with powder puck
  3. Swirl gently until fully dissolved
  4. Inject half of the solution into a muscle (butt or thigh)
  5. Call 911

Severe hypoglycemia always requires hospitalization.

There is now a nasal Glucagon that may be easier for some people.

Hyperglycemia

What Is Type 1 Diabetes treatment? ketone test stripsBlood sugars that are too high are called hyperglycemia. If blood sugars are left too high for extended periods diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) can occur.

DKA occurs when blood glucose levels have been left high for too long and the blood develops ketones (toxic acids). These ketones significantly increase the risk of serious complications.

When Alex’s sugars have been high and don’t seem to come down regardless of insulin and pushing fluids, we always do a urine test for ketones.

Whenever ketones are present we call his doctor to find out at what level she wants us to head to the hospital.

Final Thoughts

This article has given us a more thorough understanding of what is type 1 diabetes treatment.

We have learned that treatment of type 1 diabetes includes eating a healthy, well balanced diet, getting regular exercise and adequate sleep.

The most common skills you will need to master in order to properly manage your type 1 diabetes have been discussed.

I am not in any way a medical practitioner, please do not rely on the information on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another healthcare provider. We only share our experiences. We are affiliates, this means that if you purchase something from a link or ad on this site we may receive a small commission. This in no way affects the price you pay.

What to do in the event of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia has also been discussed.

How do you manage your type 1 diabetes?

Have you struggled with hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia?

What tips would you share with other readers?

Leave your answers in the comment section below and remember to check your sugars frequently.


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8 thoughts on “What Is Type 1 Diabetes treatment?”

  1. Hi Deborah! I understand very much! It must be challenging to see someone you love very much having an autoimmune disorder like that.
    I am a nurse and usually have clients who are suffering from Type 2. They are mainly having themselves worked into this illness, and in the beginning, they are easily to be helped by adjusting their lifestyle, losing weight, eating healthy, and exercising.
    Having diabetes type 1 is entirely different, and I am always amazed that these little children already have an autoimmune disease. The way they eat we all should eat, healthy food is so essential for all of us. Lots of vegetables, fiber, proteins are so crucial for them, but also us. The standard diet is such an illmaking diet; it should be forbidden. I think Alex is a real hero, a great little boy. Is it possible that he gets an insulin pump? Or is he still too young?

    Reply
    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Sylvia.

      I agree that type 2 diabetes is often self-inflicted with poor lifestyle choices. I know this was the case with my mother. It amazes me that she didn’t make the effort to correct her choices and unfortunately we lost her several years ago.

      Type 1 caught us all off guard because we all eat quite healthy although I am sure there is always room for improvement. You are correct in that if everyone followed the diet of these type 1 kids there would be a lot fewer diseases in this world.

      Alex is small for his age and although he may be 6-years-old, he is actually the size of most 4-year-olds. His diabetes team has determined it is not yet time for a pump. It will likely be discussed again at his next A1c appointment because he is starting to ask about one.

      Since this type 1 journey began with Alex he has been my hero. He takes it all in stride and while he may not like everything he knows it is for his own good.

      The hardest part with Alex is that he is hypoglycemia unaware, he never feels his lows or highs so we have to rely on more frequent testing. Thankfully he wears a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) so it makes checking him a little less invasive.

      Thanks for dropping by and take care.

      Reply
  2. I have young kids too, so I can imagine how scary it must have been when your grandson was first hospitalized and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I appreciate that you list the symptoms to look out for here.

    Thank you for sharing the details of Alex’s type 1 diabetes treatment. What a brave little guy getting so many insulin injections every day. That must be hard on his parents too, getting up every 3 hours at night to check his blood glucose levels. I’m sure it’s all worth it though to keep him healthy!

    Reply
    • Thanks for dropping by Leah and taking the time to comment.

      Yes, it was quite scary in the beginning and that is why we started this website, to educate others who may find themselves in this situation. It really does help to have the support of someone else who has gone through it.

      His parents have gotten quite used to getting up in the night to check him. So much so that when Alex comes for a sleepover with us and I am up doing his checks my daughter wakes anyways and wants me to text her his numbers so she can go back to sleep. So even when she gets a break, she doesn’t get a break.

      Alex of course sleeps through it all unless we need him to eat or drink something because he is too low.

      It didn’t take long for it all to become a normal part of our lives and we don’t even think about it anymore.

      Thanks again and take care.

      Reply
  3. Hi Deb, every time I read your story about that day, I have to swallow hard. It touches me time and again. Especially when having 2 healthy grandkids of my own, I can imagine the devastation of you all.

    Several of the recommendations you have written down here are useful for all of us. A healthy diet, exercise, sleep. Although we differ a bit about what a healthy diet is, as you know, broadly speaking, we agree, don’t you think?

    But this made me wonder: can diabetics1 patients survive on a vegetarian or vegan diet? (secretly hoping to inspire you for another article, LOL).

    Reply
    • Hi Hannie, every time I think of that day I too get a huge lump in my throat. But then I think of how far we have come in such a short time as a family and my heart fills with pride.

      I think of Alex’s sisters who are 13 and 16 and I am so proud of how they both can take care of their little brother. They know how to count his carbs, calculate his dose and give his injections. They are also very adept at finger pokes.

      Nothing phases these kids. They all just take it in stride.

      You have definitely inspired me for another article, and I thank you for that.

      I will give you a short answer to your question but elaborate in a future article and yes for the most part we do agree on what is healthy food.

      While a vegetarian or vegan diet will work wonders for a type 2 diabetic it is quite different for a type 1.

      First of all, a type 1 can go dangerously low at any time. When this happens they need a fast-acting carb or sugar snack to bring their blood sugars back into range. Eating fruit does not react fast enough to avoid diabetic coma.

      One would typically think that eating vegetarian or vegan would be the ideal solution but there is a problem for type 1 diabetics.

      The problem is that in vegan or vegetarian meals you are eliminating a very important protein source that helps stabilize blood sugars. In an attempt to get enough protein from plant-based food they may consume too many carbs which will spike blood sugars risking DKA which is a life-threatening medical emergency.

      Alex does eat plenty of fruits and vegetables but he also eats a source of protein with every carb to help balance things out.

      Keep in mind, my answer to this question is based on my current knowledge, you never know what research will turn up.

      Hope this helps and I will research an article to go more in-depth into this topic.

      Reply
  4. Hi Deb,

    Thank you for not just giving us a comprehensive guide to Type 1 Diabetes, but also sharing this personal story and connection to the condition. I am conscious that there to types of Diabetes but I was only familiar with the Type 2 one because that’s the only that my late grandma had in her old age.

    One of the fascinating things about the condition is what you said about how the people suffering from it can look well on the surface. Yet they can be in a life threatening situation! I believe you explanation with help many of your readers in spotting this condition. and I will be returning to this in future as a reference when I need to refresh my memory of the symptoms.

    Best wishes
    Femi

    Reply
    • Thanks for dropping by Femi and taking the time to comment.

      Diabetes is known as the “silent killer” because unless they suffer from complications of diabetes, you can not tell they are sick by looking at them. That is a big part of why there are so many undiagnosed diabetics these days.

      I am grateful my article has given you a more thorough understanding of type 1 diabetes. It remains the main goal of this website to educate people about type 1 diabetes so they can help their own families live their healthiest lives possible.

      Thanks again and take care.

      Reply

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