Type 1 diabetes causes the body’s immune system to destroy the beta cells in the pancreas which leads to an inadequate production of the hormone that regulates glucose in the blood. While glucose is required as a main source of energy, the buildup of glucose in the bloodstream can result in potentially life-threatening complications.
While there may be no proven cure or form of prevention just yet, below is an explanation of what tried and true forms of treatment are available to the over 1.25 million Americans dealing with type 1 diabetes every year.
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When the body can’t produce enough of the hormone that regulates glucose in the blood (this is what keeps blood sugar levels in a normal, healthy range), as is the case with diabetes, you have to provide your body with an external source of this hormone.
There are different kinds of this medication — all of which are used for different purposes and times of day, as prescribed by your doctor. The different kinds include:
- Short-acting (e.g., regular or novolin)
- Rapid-acting (e.g., lispro [Humalog]
- Intermediate-acting (e.g., NPH)
- Long-acting (e.g., glargine [Lantus])
Regardless of what kind of medication is prescribed, injecting the hormone into your body with a needle or pump (basically a small tube placed just under the skin that stays on your body) is the only way to effectively administer it.
With injections, most people require multiple daily injections that include a combination of a long-acting and rapid-acting to try to mimic the body’s normal use of the hormone. The number of shots required each day will be different from person to person and can change depending on the state of your diabetes as overseen by your doctor.
The pump, on the other hand, consists of a smartphone-sized device that is worn on the outside of the body with a tube that inserts under the skin of your abdomen.The tube will automatically administer specific amounts of the rapid-acting form of the hormone based on the meals you eat and your blood sugar levels throughout the day.
It’s important to note that this hormone can’t be taken orally. If taken orally, the hormone would break down in your intestines before it’s able to have any medicinal effect.