Type 1 Diabetes: Treatment

Health Monitor Staff
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Type 1 diabetes treatment goals should generally fall into two categories:

  • Short term: Make lifestyle changes, and treat high blood sugar levels and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), if it is present. High blood sugar and DKA can cause you to be quite sick and even hospitalized.
  • Long term: Manage blood sugar level and body weight, and prevent complications. Also, treat complications should they occur.

Here's how you can achieve those goals:

Lifestyle. Besides taking medication, some of the best ways you can regulate your blood sugar are to quit smoking, maintain a recommended weight, exercise and eat a healthy diet. Specifically, this means counting carbohydrates, exercising for about 3 1/2 hours each week and regularly monitoring your blood-sugar levels.

Establishing a daily routine will make it easier for you to stick to new health habits. For example, plan healthy meals in advance. Also commit to eating and taking your insulin at the same time each day, so that your blood sugar doesn't rise too high or fall too low. And go to bed at the same time each night, so you are well rested.

This is a learning process. But each new day is an opportunity to practice good health.

Medication. Insulin is the primary medication for people with type 1 diabetes. The goal of insulin therapy is to help you maintain blood sugar levels between 70 milligrams/deciliter (mg/dL) and 130 mg/dL before eating, and below 180 mg/dL within two hours after a meal. Insulin must be injected, but you can administer it with a syringe, a pen-type device or an insulin pump.

Your insulin dosage—and the type of insulin you use—depends on your body's unique needs. Your doctor also may prescribe other oral medications to help you manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Routine management and monitoring. Since the number-one goal is to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, your doctor probably will want to see you at least every 3-6 months to adjust your treatments, if necessary, and recommend lifestyle modifications to help you maintain a high quality of life.

Plan to see your healthcare team for routine checkups regularly, as often as they recommend. In particular, your healthcare team will want to review your daily blood sugar levels, which you'll monitor by using a glucose meter. Your doctor also may advise you to test your urine for ketones (compounds that result when body fat is broken down) when you are experiencing specific symptoms.

Additionally, your healthcare provider will review your medications, diet, physical activity and emotional well-being. He or she may order A1c and blood lipid tests. You'll likely be referred to other specialists as well to check specific areas of your body.

Your healthcare providers want you to feel better. Take their advice on medications and changes you can make to improve your health.

April 2013