Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2006;74(6):983-984

See related article on type 1 diabetes.

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is when your body doesn’t make enough insulin. Insulin controls the amount of sugar in your blood (blood sugar). If you have too much sugar in your blood, you may get very thirsty and you may have to go to the bathroom a lot.

If type 1 diabetes isn’t treated, you can go into a coma and even die. If you have type 1 diabetes, you are more likely to have other problems, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, high blood pressure, blindness, nerve damage, and gum disease. Your blood also may not circulate very well.

What should I do if I have type 1 diabetes?

You can help prevent problems from type 1 diabetes by controlling your blood sugar level, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and not smoking.

How do I control my blood sugar level?

Multiple daily insulin shots are the best way to control your blood sugar. You can keep the shots with you and use them whenever you need to. You should give yourself insulin right before you eat to keep your blood sugar from rising.

You may need more or less insulin during the day depending on what you eat and how much you exercise. Your doctor can teach you the difference between short- or long-acting insulins and when you should use them. You should test your blood sugar level multiple times a day.

What if my blood sugar level gets too low or too high?

When your blood sugar gets too low, it is called hypoglycemia (say: high-po-gly-SEE-mee-a). There are many possible symptoms of hypoglycemia. For example, you could be tired, sweaty, unable to think or speak clearly, or you may feel like you are going to pass out. If your blood sugar gets too low, you should eat or drink something with a lot of sugar in it, like candy, juice, or soda. If your blood sugar level gets very low, a family member or friend can give you medicine called glucagon to raise your blood sugar level. If your blood sugar is too high, you should take more insulin.

Your doctor can tell you how to test your blood sugar level.

What can I do to stay healthy?

There are several other things you can do to stay healthy:

  • Eat foods that are low in saturated and trans fats, salt, and sugar. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, lean meats, fish, and skinless chicken are good choices.

  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.

  • Don’t smoke.

  • Ask your doctor about taking one aspirin every day if you are older than 40.

  • Protect your feet and check them regularly for signs of infection.

  • Go to the eye doctor and dentist every year.

  • See your doctor regularly.

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