Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition where the body has destroyed the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, thereby making the person with Type 1 diabetes dependant on insulin injections for the rest of their lives.

Auto-immune - this is a disorder of the body’s immune system that mistakes certain cells in the body as being “foreign” to the body, and thus the immune system destroys these cells.

The majority (75%) of type 1 diabetes patients are diagnosed under the age of 18years, however, the diagnosis can be made up to the age of 35. Only 10% of all people living with diabetes have type 1 diabetes.

The following are symptoms of type 1 diabetes that should alert you to visit the doctor

  • Excessive thirst – known as polydipsia
  • Excessive urination – known as polyuria
  • Weight loss
  • Bedwetting in a previously toilet-trained child.
  • Vaginal infections (candidiasis) especially in pre-puberty girls
  • Irritability and decreasing school performance
  • Recurrent skin infections

Due to the fact that the body cannot produce any insulin, the hormone that is needed to move sugar (glucose) from the food we eat, into the body’s cells where it can be used for energy, people with type 1 diabetes have to inject insulin every day. This is quite overwhelming when you have to start injecting, and therefore it is important that you receive the proper education and training on injecting insulin as well as all the related aspects of using insulin, like storing your insulin and testing your blood sugar (glucose) levels daily.

There are different types of insulin that are used to treat diabetes. For type 1 diabetes, your doctor will probably prescribe what is known as a “basal-bolus” regimen.  You will inject 2 different types of insulin: Rapid acting insulin at meals and basal / long acting insulin either in the morning or in the evening. The picture below shows when the insulin injections are given.

All people living with diabetes should be testing (monitoring) their blood sugar levels. This is necessary to monitor how much sugar (glucose) is circulating in your blood so that you can adjust your eating, exercise and/or medication to ensure that your blood sugar (glucose) levels are within “range” or are “on target” .

All people living with diabetes are at risk of developing hypoglycaemia.

Hypoglycaemia: “hypo” means low; gly = glucose; aemia = blood: therefore hypoglycaemia means LOW BLOOD GLUCOSE levels.  A blood glucose levels less than 4.0mmol/l are considered to be hypoglycaemia.

This is hypoglycaemia that occurs at night while you are asleep.  It is more common in people who are injecting insulin, but people taking tablets for their diabetes can also experience nocturnal hypoglycaemia.

Hyperglycaemia is common in people living with diabetes, even if your blood sugar (glucose) levels are well controlled you may experience episodes of hyperglycaemia.