About Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented but it can be managed through a combination of medication, healthy food choices and exercise.

How many people have type 1 diabetes?

Of all the people with diabetes it is estimated that about 10% of them have type 1 diabetes.

What is type 1 diabetes?

Diabetes is the result of the body not creating enough insulin to keep blood glucose (sugar) levels in the normal range. Everyone needs some glucose in their blood, but if it's too high it can damage your body over time.

Type 1 diabetes is an 'auto-immune' condition. Basically the body sets up an attack against the cells within it that make insulin. These cells are called beta cells and are isolated in the pancreas. The result is that the body does not produce any insulin (or very little).

When does type 1 diabetes normally occur?

Type 1 diabetes most often occurs in childhood, often in children aged 7 – 12 years. However it can occur at any age – from tiny babies to very old people.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes

  • Thirst
  • Passing more urine
  • Weight loss
  • Very tired
  • Mood changes

May also have:

  • Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting
  • Skin infections, thrush
  • Extreme hunger
  • Poor concentration and performance

Diagnosis and treatment

Diabetes is diagnosed by blood tests which can be organised through your doctor. If you are very unwell you should seek medical assistance immediately.

If you have type 1 diabetes, you will need to manage your blood glucose levels with insulin. Healthy eating and physical activity will also help you stay well.

Click here to learn more about taking insulin.

Does it run in families?

If you have a blood relative with diabetes you are more likely to develop Type 1 diabetes. However Type 1 diabetes often occurs in people who have no one in their family with the condition.

Is there any cure for type 1 diabetes?

Currently there is no cure for type 1 diabetes. There is a lot of research going on in the field of finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

Can people with type 1 diabetes live healthy and active lives?

Yes! Type 1 diabetes can be managed and people with type 1 diabetes can and do live long, active and healthy lives. There are many stories of people with type 1 diabetes finding success in professional sports, business, arts and more.

How do most people feel about having type 1 diabetes?

Many people experience a strong grief reaction when first finding out they have type 1 diabetes. Mixed in with these feelings of grief may also be a sense of relief.

Why? Well, there is a feeling of certainty that comes with finding out just what it is that has been wrong (people with undiagnosed type 1 diabetes may have been feeling unwell for some time but haven't known what the problem was). It is a relief to get a diagnosis but it is also a big shock to learn it is diabetes.

When you are first diagnosed it's perfectly natural to feel a range of strong emotions, fear, anger, frustration, sadness. You have had a lot of big things to deal with - all at once. There are things you can do, however, that will help you manage your way through this period. For example:

  • Talk to your family and friends. Talking to others often helps you to feel supported and explaining things to other people is often a good way of getting things clear in your own mind.
  • Talk to your health professionals about how you feel. Ask them what things you can do to help yourself feel better.
  • Do lots of nice things for yourself. This is a hard time and a little bit of self-indulgence goes a long way at times like this. The more good things you do, the more you will move into a positive frame of mind.
  • Don't expect miracles overnight. Grief comes and goes; it doesn't follow a set pattern. Be prepared for these feelings to resurface from time to time.

Take your time: use the support that's there

Fact: You and your type 1 diabetes will be together for the rest of your life.

Fact: You are going to be doing lots of learning in order to manage your diabetes.

Many people say that living with type 1 diabetes is a life long journey of learning. You don't have to take it all in at once. It often feels easier to take it step by step.

And remember - you are not alone. You have a whole team of health professionals who are able to help you learn what you need to know, when you need to know it. Your team consists of specialist diabetes doctors, diabetes nurse educators, dietitians, your GP and others. They can act as your guide during your learning journey.

Your local Diabetes New Zealand Branch can help you by providing support and information, find the Branch nearest to you here.

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