Now What? Five Things To Know After A Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis
Monday, November 15, 2021 - 09:35
This year, 120,000 Australian’s will be diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes according to Diabetes Australia. If you have suddenly found yourself among this group, you should know you are far from alone.
Today, there is a well-paved road to normalcy, and diabetes can take a back seat to what you want to accomplish and the life you want to live.
But, like so many others, you might be wondering how to take your first steps down that path.
The good news is, people with diabetes (PWD) and the healthcare providers who support them, have been answering this question for a while. As you start your journey, you will find a wealth of knowledge and experience at your disposal to better support you through the highs and lows of life with diabetes.
To start, here are five things to know after your type 1 diabetes diagnosis.
1. What Your Diagnosis Actually Means
The first thing you can do after a type 1 diabetes diagnosis is to learn as much as you can about it. You are likely feeling anxiety or fear about what this diagnosis means for your life. Knowing more about diabetes can ease those feelings and breed positivity.
Diabetes Australia explains that with type 1 diabetes, your pancreas doesn’t make insulin or makes very little insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps blood sugar enter the cells in your body where it can be used for energy. Without insulin, blood sugar can’t get into cells and builds up in the bloodstream. High blood sugar is damaging to the body and causes many of the symptoms and complications of diabetes.
A type 1 diabetes diagnosis means your immune system is actually destroying the cells in your pancreas that make insulin. There is no consensus on exactly why this happens, but it is not a result of diet or lifestyle habits.
2. How to Handle Your Insulin Doses
Your doctor will prescribe the correct dosage and type of insulin for your body and lifestyle. This choice will be based on a number of factors, including how quickly the insulin can lower your blood sugar, the time to maximum strength, and how long it stays present in your system.
Depending on your activity level, your age, and nutrition, your insulin should work for you. No matter what kind you choose, this insulin is designed to act the same as the hormone your body produces. Each time you add insulin to your bloodstream, your body has the ammunition it needs to keep your glucose in line.
But how do you know when your body needs that help?
3. How to Test Your Blood Sugar Levels
When you are first diagnosed, you’ll probably leave your doctor’s office with a blood glucose monitor, also called a glucometer. With a small amount of blood – usually from the tip of your finger – your glucometer will analyse your blood sugar levels to give you a blood glucose reading. If your blood glucose reading is high, you will need insulin to lower it. And if your glucose reading is low, you will need sugar to raise it. Blood sugar levels change all the time, so it is important to test regularly and record your readings.
As technology has improved, so have the number of advanced options to measure your blood glucose, such as the Guardian Connect CGM (continuous glucose monitor) system. Devices like these automatically read your sugar levels and can connect to your smartphone to track your glucose levels over time, helping you better understand your natural rhythms and the impact carbs and insulin have on your glucose levels.
Talk to your doctor to put together a plan for both high and low blood glucose levels and learn to recognise the warning signs unique to you. Preparation is half the battle.
4. The Tools to Manage Your Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis
There are a lot of products to choose from to treat type 1 diabetes. Most fall within these main groups:
- Insulin syringes: The original way of injecting insulin, syringes come with vials of insulin and a needle for injection. Typically, you will need to administer and keep track of your insulin manually if using this method, known as MDI (multiple daily injections) therapy.
- Insulin pens: An evolved form of the syringe method, insulin pens make it easier to inject yourself and usually come with a dial to choose your correct dosage a little more easily.
- Glucometers: Simple blood sugar testing devices that uses a lancet to lightly prick your skin to obtain the blood. A drop of blood is placed onto a test strip and your glucometer calculates the amount of glucose in your blood. The glucometer kit may include a logbook or you might be able to download your glucose readings onto your computer.
- Continuous glucose monitors: A CGM works through a tiny sensor inserted under your skin. The sensor measures your interstitial glucose level, which is the glucose found in the fluid between the cells, and tests glucose every few minutes. A transmitter wirelessly sends the information to a monitor, which may be part of an insulin pump, or a separate device.
- Insulin pumps: These devices connect to your body through a thin, flexible tube and deliver a regular drip of insulin to your bloodstream to match your body’s needs.
5. How Your Support Team Can Help
In the end, nothing replaces the support of those around you when dealing with a type 1 diabetes diagnosis. Along with your friends and family, your diabetes care team will be your most valuable asset on this journey. Your doctor will schedule regular check-ups to ensure your treatment is on the right track and refer you to specialists who can help.
There are also numerous communities online and in the real world that provide support and advice for PWD newcomers. Relying on your support network can make all the difference in maintaining a positive attitude as you learn to manage type 1 diabetes.
Take a deep breath and realise that you are still in control. Arming yourself with knowledge is the most powerful method you have to manage that new type 1 diabetes diagnosis. With a good plan and an empathetic, engaged circle of support, there’s nothing that can stand in your way.