Dr Kate Gajewska
Clinical Manager for Advocacy and Research, Diabetes Ireland
Of all people living with diabetes in Ireland, 10% have to continuously take insulin just to survive. They also have to be educated to self-manage diabetes to prevent diabetes-related complications and live long and healthy lives.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition: the body stops producing the hormone called insulin that is essential to survive for reasons we still do not understand. Living with diabetes requires daily decisions around medication doses, including estimating and delivering insulin, checking blood glucose levels and avoiding low and high blood glucose levels.
High glucose levels (hyperglycaemia) occur as an effect of insufficient insulin levels and can be caused by many factors: food, stress, other medicines etc. Low glucose levels (hypoglycaemia) on the other hand, can be a result of an insulin overdose, that can occur after miscalculating food and carbohydrate intake, exercise, increased activity etc. There are dozens of factors that can influence glucose levels – with only a few controllable.
If well controlled, diabetes does not have to be a barrier to living a normal, active, and healthy life.
Living with type 1 diabetes
Living with diabetes requires attention and effort 365 days a year and 24 hours a day – there is no break from it. One of the ways living with diabetes has improved, and the burden of all these daily tasks has been reduced, has been the advances in technology. Glucose monitoring allows the checking of glucose levels and patterns by only connecting a reader (i.e. a reader or a mobile phone) to a sensor attached to one’s body.
More advanced, continuous glucose monitors have alarms and alert when glucose is rising or falling. The vast majority of people with diabetes (PwD) in Ireland use insulin pens and take 3-4 (or more) injections a day. Those on insulin pumps can just programme insulin dose by clicking the buttons and deliver it via infusion set, which is attached to a body and replaced every 2-3 days. The minority of those living with condition in Ireland use advanced technological support, despite the fact it is reimbursed.
Just control what you can
If well controlled, diabetes does not have to be a barrier to living a normal, active, and healthy life. PwD can do anything – just have to maintain their safety. Appropriate diabetes management saves lives and protects from long-term complications (same as in type 2 diabetes), it also minimises the risk of severe complications: severe hypoglycaemia and diabetes ketoacidosis (DKA).
DKA is life-threatening, thus should be recognised quickly. It frequently occurs at the time of diabetes diagnosis. To avoid DKA, we should all be aware of type 1 diabetes symptoms: T for thirst increased, E for energy reduced, S for sudden weight loss, and T for toilet trips, which are very frequent.