The immediate goals of treatment are to treat diabetic ketoacidosis and high blood glucose levels. Because Type 1 diabetes can come on suddenly and the symptoms can be severe, newly diagnosed people may need to stay in the hospital.
The long-term goals of treatment are to:
- Reduce symptoms
- Prevent diabetes-related complications such as blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, amputation of limbs and heart disease
You are the most important person in managing your diabetes. You should know the basic steps to diabetes management:
- How to recognize and treat low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- How to recognize and treat high blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
- Diabetes meal planning
- How to give insulin
- How to monitor blood glucose and urine ketones
- How to adjust insulin and food intake during exercise
- How to handle sick days
- Where to buy diabetes supplies and how to store them
Insulin lowers blood sugar by allowing it to leave the bloodstream and enter cells. Everyone needs insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes can’t make their own insulin. They must take insulin every day.
Insulin is usually injected under the skin. In some cases, a pump delivers the insulin continuously. Insulin does not come in pill form.
Insulin preparations differ in how fast they start to work and how long they last. The health care professional will review your blood glucose levels to determine the appropriate type of insulin you should use. More than one type of insulin may be mixed together in an injection to achieve the best blood glucose control.
The injections are needed, in general, from one to four times a day. People are taught how to give insulin injections by their health care provider or a diabetes nurse educator. At first, a child’s injections may be given by a parent or other adult. By age 14, most children can be expected (but should not be required) to give their own injections.
People with diabetes need to know how to adjust the amount of insulin they are taking in the following situations:
- When they exercise
- When they are sick
- When they will be eating more or less food and calories
- When they are traveling
People with Type 1 diabetes should eat at about the same times each day and try to be consistent with the types of food they choose. This helps to prevent blood sugar from becoming extremely high or low. (See: Diabetes diet )
The American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association have information for planning healthy, balanced meals. It can help to talk with a registered dietitian or nutrition counselor.
Regular exercise helps control the amount of sugar in the blood. It also helps burn excess calories and fat to achieve a healthy weight.
Ask your health care provider before starting any exercise program. Those with Type 1 diabetes must take special precautions before, during and after intense physical activity or exercise.
- Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
- Ask your doctor or nurse if you have the right footwear.
- Choose an enjoyable physical activity that is appropriate for your current fitness level.
- Exercise every day and at the same time of day, if possible.
- Monitor your blood glucose levels at home before and after exercising.
- Carry food that contains a fast-acting carbohydrate in case your blood glucose levels get too low during or after exercise.
- Wear a diabetes identification bracelet and carry a cell phone to use in case of emergency.
- Drink extra fluids that do not contain sugar before, during and after exercise.
- As you change the intensity or duration of your exercise, you may need to modify your diet or medication to keep your blood glucose levels in an appropriate range.
Self-testing refers to being able to check your blood sugar at home yourself. Regular self-testing of your blood sugar tells you and your health care provider how well your diet, exercise and diabetes medications are working. This is also called self-monitoring of blood glucose, or SMBG.
A health care provider or diabetes educator will help set up a testing schedule for you at home.
- Your doctor will help you set a goal for what level your blood sugar should be during the day.
- The results can be used to adjust meals activity, or medications to keep blood sugar levels within an appropriate range. Tests are usually done before meals and at bedtime. More frequent testing may be needed when you are sick, under stress or adjusting your insulin dosing.
Testing will provide valuable information so the health care provider can suggest improvements to your care and treatment. Testing will identify high and low blood sugar levels before serious problems develop.
A device called a glucometer can provide a blood sugar reading. There are different types of devices. Usually, you prick your finger with a small needle called a lancet to get a tiny drop of blood. You place the blood on a test strip and put the strip into the device. You should have results within 30 – 45 seconds.
Keeping accurate records of your test results will help you and your health care provider plan how to best control your diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association recommends keeping blood sugar levels in the range of:
- 80 – 120 mg/dL before meals
- 100 – 140 mg/dL at bedtime
Diabetes causes damage to the blood vessels and nerves. This can reduce your ability to feel injury to or pressure on the foot. You may not notice a foot injury until severe infection develops. Diabetes can also damage blood vessels. Small sores or breaks in the skin may progress to deeper skin ulcers. Amputation of the affected limb may be needed when these skin ulcers do not improve or become larger or deeper.
To prevent problems with your feet, you should:
- Stop smoking if you smoke.
- Improve control of your blood sugar.
- Get a foot exam by your health care provider at least twice a year and learn whether you have nerve damage.
- Check and care for your feet EVERY DAY, especially if you already have known nerve or blood vessel damage or current foot problems.
- Make sure you are wearing the right kind of shoes.
TREATING LOW BLOOD SUGAR
Hypoglycemia can develop quickly in people with diabetes. Symptoms typically appear when the blood sugar level falls below 70. If you have symptoms:
- Do a blood sugar check.
- If the level is low or you have symptoms of hypoglycemia, eat something with sugar: 4 ounces of fruit juice, 3 – 4 Lifesavers candies, or 4 ounces of regular soda. Overtreating a mild low blood sugar reaction can lead to problems with high blood sugar and difficult blood sugar control overall.
- Symptoms should go away within 15 minutes. If the symptoms don’t go away, repeat the sugar-containing food as above, and test the sugar level again. When your blood sugar is in a safer range (over 70 mg/dL), you may need to eat a snack with carbohydrates and protein, such as cheese and crackers or a glass of milk.
Ask your doctor if you need a glucagon injection kit to raise blood sugar quickly in an emergency.
MEDICATIONS TO PREVENT COMPLICATIONS
Your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce your chances of developing eye disease, kidney disease, and other conditions that are more common in people with diabetes.
An ACE inhibitor (or ARB) is often recommended as the first choice for those with high blood pressure and those with signs of kidney disease. ACE inhibitors include:
- Captopril (Capoten)
- Enalapril (Vasotec)
- Guinapril (Accupril)
- Benazepril (Lotensin)
- Ramipril (Altace)
- Perindopril (Aceon)
- Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)
Statin drugs are usually the first choice to treat an abnormal cholesterol level. Aim for an LDL cholesterol level of less than 100 mg/dL.
Aspirin to prevent heart disease is most often recommended for people with diabetes who:
- Are older than 40
- Have a personal or family history of heart problems
- Have high blood pressure or high cholesterol
TREATING HIGH KETONES