By Sahar Haghpanah
Living with type 1 diabetes:
When I was 18, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes so I quickly had to learn the ins and outs of blood sugar monitoring, taking insulin daily and much more! I’d been diagnosed after several months of feeling extremely lethargic, having an avid thirst which was persistent throughout the day and night and having lost a significant amount of weight. It was after a visit to the hospital where I soon found out that my body had stopped producing insulin, which accounted for all the symptoms I had been having in the two months prior to this.
It took me a while to adjust to a new ‘normal’ where I had to adapt my lifestyle to being an insulin dependent young adult and having to regularly monitor my blood glucose. It was also key that I learnt how to make educated decisions in terms of anything I ate which had the potential to make my blood sugar levels spike. Being diagnosed just before I was about to set off to university was stressful at first as I was worried what impact this would have on my experience, however, it allowed me to grow a sense of independence and responsibility to ensure I kept my blood sugar levels under control!
I am a young adult, only 20 years old, and every day I continue to adjust my lifestyle and come to understand my way around living with type 1 diabetes. Over the last two years, I have tried alternative ways of managing my diabetes including carb counting, taking a diary of my insulin doses and diet and most recently have tried to use the free style libre – an automatic sensor that can test your blood sugar level!
Over time, my thoughts about insulin and my body have changed immensely but diabetes has allowed me to take better control of my life. Yes, it can be incredibly frustrating and challenging at times but with the help of my diabetes team, friends and family, I have managed to create a positive mindset for this condition and I continue to learn more and more about it every day – diabetes does not change what you can achieve!
At Givey, we hope by talking about this condition we can help those looking for information and help spread awareness of charities and fundraisers who work for this cause.
What is type 1 diabetes?
In the UK there are over 3.5 million people diagnosed with diabetes and around about 549,000 people are estimated to have the condition but are yet to know this. It is estimated that by the year 2025, more than 5 million people in the UK will have diabetes.
There are two types of diabetes which are most commonly known; type 1, where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin and type 2, where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin.
It is said that about 90% of people with diabetes in the UK are known to have type 2 diabetes, and only 8% have type 1. Insulin is essential to how we live. It allows the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies. However, when you have type 1 diabetes, the glucose entering your bloodstream eventually builds up as there is no insulin to allow it into your body’s cells. Consequently, those affected by the condition need to take insulin every day to take control of their blood glucose levels and ensure this glucose is being put to good use.
Type 1 diabetes can develop independent of the lifestyle one may lead and can develop at any age. This varies in comparison to type 2 diabetes, where a lot of things can put you at higher risk of getting this including your weight and ethnicity.
Prior to my diagnosis, I noticed I was consistently feeling incredibly sluggish throughout the day, and tasks as small as walking home from the bus stop or walking up hill were extremely exhaustive. On top of this, I had experienced a variety of other symptoms including a persistent thirst that never seemed to disappear and had undergone a significant loss of weight.
At the time I failed to link all these symptoms together, and it wasn’t until I had booked an appointment with my GP to discuss these physical changes that I found out my blood sugar was very high and I was taken straight to the hospital where I was immediately taken care of. Most symptoms will arise as a result of high levels of glucose in the bloodstream that cannot enter any cells. Unlike type 2 diabetes, the symptoms for type 1 will often arise incredibly quick and out of the blue!
For more information on other symptoms and the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, follow this link to check out the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/type-1-diabetes/
The precise cause of type 1 diabetes is yet to be found! However, what is known is that type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition. In this instance, the immune system attacks the beta cells in the pancreas which produce insulin, thus destroying the body’s ability to maintains its own blood glucose levels.
The causes of complications related to diabetes are known to be a result of high blood sugar over a considerably long period of time, leading to damage to the blood vessels. Once damage to the blood vessels has been done, this can create problems in other parts of the body.
However, the key to delaying or preventing these complications is to maintain control of your blood sugar, blood pressure and blood fats!
Failure to sufficiently manage your type 1 diabetes can often lead to serious health problems. Diabetic ketoacidosis, otherwise shortened as DKA, occurs when there is a severe lack of insulin in the body. Symptoms of DKA can include feeling/being sick, lethargic, peeing more often, high blood sugar and sweet-smelling breath. This is just one health risk amongst many which include diabetic retinopathy, neuropathy, sexual problems, and diabetic nephropathy.
Smaller complications can also arise depending on your blood sugar becomes too low or too high! When you blood sugar becomes too low, you are considered hypoglycaemic. The most common symptoms of a hypo typically include feeling shaky, going pale, heart palpitations, sweating, lack of concentration and tiredness. On the other hand, when your blood sugars are too high, you are considered hyperglycaemic. Symptoms will include passing more urine than usual, being thirsty, having headaches and feeling tired.
Charities that help:
We hope this blog has managed to provide you with a greater insight into type 1 diabetes and what it entails for those who have the condition or even allowed anybody to relate in some way!
You can find diabetes charities here https://www.givey.com/explore
Need someone to talk to?
If you are newly diagnosed, need information, or fancy a quick chat, there are plenty of ways to find help. Call the Diabetes UK helpline on 0345 123 2399 or follow the link to find a support group near you https://www.diabetes.org.uk/how_we_help/local_support_groups.