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Type 1 diabetes | 3 min. read

Type 1 diabetes – What’s going on in your body?

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder. In type 1 diabetes the insulin-making cells in the pancreas known as ‘islet’ or ‘beta’ cells are destroyed. There are certain genetic and environmental factors which make some individuals more vulnerable to developing type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes starts more frequently in young people and at the moment there is no way of preventing it. Type 1 diabetes always has to be treated with insulin, which can be either injected using a very fine needle, or can be delivered continuously from an insulin pump through a catheter placed under the skin.

What is insulin?

Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas when you eat. It helps convert glucose, or sugar, from food into your body's cells where it can be used as energy. In simple terms, when your insulin level goes up, your blood sugar level goes down. Without insulin, your body cannot make use of and absorb glucose and it stays in your blood.

Are there different types of insulin?

Yes - The different insulins are summarised below:

1. Long-acting insulin

Background (basal) insulin that may last for a long time

2. Faster-acting insulin

Mealtime insulin that works very quickly for a short period of time

3. Premixed insulin

Addresses background and meal time requirements

NOTE: Your Healthcare Professional will decide what the best insulin is to treat your diabetes. This will vary from person to person and will depend on each individual's response to insulin.

The importance of balanced blood glucose levels

Having balanced blood glucose levels is important for your body to function properly. Too much or too little glucose in your blood can have some very serious consequences.

Too much glucose in your blood can cause complications such as:

  • Cardiovascular disease (stroke and heart attack)
  • Diabetic retinopathy (eye damage which can lead to blindness)
  • Kidney disease
  • Nerve damage to feet/foot ulcers (Blocked circulation in the feet and Foot infection)

What is hypoglycaemia (a hypo)?

Too little glucose in your blood can cause a hypo, which is the medical terms for having a blood glucose level below 4mmol/L, whether or not you have symptoms.

  • ‘Hypo’ is short for hypoglycaemia
  • Hypoglycaemia is the medical term for a blood glucose (sugar) level below 4mmol/L, whether or not you have symptoms
  • In managing your diabetes you will focus a lot on keeping your blood glucose levels from getting too high. However, if your blood glucose levels go too low this can also be a problem


For more information on hypoglycaemia check out 'Dealing with Hypoglycaemia'

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Dealing with hypoglycaemia

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