Type 1 diabetes causes the level of glucose (sugar) in your blood to become too high. This happens when the body can't produce enough of a hormone called insulin which controls the blood glucose.
You will need daily injections of insulin to keep your blood glucose levels under control.
Type 1 diabetes isn't linked with age or being overweight – that is type 2 diabetes.
Selfcare and more information
You can find out more about type 1 diabetes and how it can be treated on the NHS website.
Managing my Type 1 Diabetes
Managing type 1 diabetes can take time to get used to, but you can still do all the things you enjoy.
When you're diagnosed with type 1 diabetes you’ll be asked to eat meals and inject insulin at set times every day. When you're more confident, you can try a more flexible insulin treatment plan to suit your lifestyle. This might allow you to eat when you want. Speak to your diabetes team when you feel ready.
Your treatment might also need to change as you get older or if your body changes. This includes:
- Losing or putting on weight
- Being ill
Insulin is a hormone made in your pancreas. It helps your body use glucose (sugar) for energy.
In type 1 diabetes the pancreas no longer creates insulin, so you have to inject it to regulate your blood glucose levels.
There are different types of insulin, taken at different times:
Insulin taken once or twice a day.
This is called basal insulin. It gives your body the insulin it needs whether you eat or not. Basal Insulin should keep your blood glucose stable overnight and between meals.
Insulin taken with food and drink.
This is called bolus insulin. It helps reduce the rise in blood glucose caused by eating or drinking. It would usually be taken before a meal, snack or drink with carbohydrates in it.
Hypoglycaemia & Hyperglycaemia
Hypoglycaemia (a Hypo) is when your blood glucose level is too low, usually below 4mmol/L.
This can happen if you delay meals or if haven’t had enough carbohydrates in your last meal. Also if you take too much insulin and drink alcohol on an empty stomach.
Hypoglycaemia can come on fast so you need to be aware of the signs:
- Feeling anxious and irritable
- Feeling hungry
- Difficulty concentrating
- Blurred vision
Before it gets worse you should eat something sugary such as glucose sweets, jelly babies or drink a glass of fruit juice. Check your blood glucose after 10 minutes and if it’s still low, eat something sugary again.
Learn more about what to do if you’re having a hypo by clicking here.
Hyperglycaemia (hyper) is when your blood glucose levels are too high. This can happen if you’re
- Less active
- Not having enough insulin for the carb you’ve eaten.
It is important to be aware of the signs. Speak to your care team if you:
- Feel dehydrated
- Urinate more than usual
- Feel fatigued all the time.
- Have unintended weight loss
- Blurred vision
Very high blood sugar levels can lead to a serious problem called diabetic ketoacidosis. This is when the body starts to breakdown fat for energy when there’s not enough insulin. This leads to a build-up of acid in your blood. This would be treated in hospital.
Learn more what to do if you’re having a hyper by clicking here
Lifestyle and diabetes
There is nothing you can’t eat if you are a type 1 diabetic. Insulin treatments have been developed to be much more flexible, to try and fit the diabetes and insulin around the same healthy, balanced diet that is recommended for everyone.
- Eat a wide range of foods, including plenty of fruit, vegetables.
- It is important to include carbohydrates. Healthier sources of carbs include fruit and vegetables, pulses and wholegrain starchy foods.
- Remember to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, and try to make healthier choices when snacking.
- Eat foods that are lower in saturated fats, sugar and salt.
Making healthier choices and eating foods will help to control blood fats, blood pressure and maintain a healthy weight. This can in turn reduce the risk of diabetes complications including heart disease and stroke.
For online resources on diet and nutrition can be found by clicking on the below links:
You can also click here to visit the MyHealth healthy eating resources page.
You will still be able to exercise and take part in sports you enjoy if you have type 1 diabetes. You may well have to take some extra steps to make sure you do it safely.
Exercise and sports will affect your blood glucose levels. It can cause your blood glucose levels to rise (hyperglycaemia) or to drop (hypoglycaemia). To avoid hypoglycaemia, make sure are eating the right amount of carbs before, during and after exercise and drink plenty of water.
Exercise helps reduce glucose spikes after meals.
Runsweet has more information and advice about sport, exercise and diet for people with diabetes click here to see more.
You can also click here to visit the MyHealth exercise resource.
What to do when you're ill
Having type 1 diabetes does not mean you are more likely to get ill more frequently than usual.
If you do get ill, it can make your blood glucose higher so you’ll have to take extra care - Particularly if you’re being sick or not eating much.
- Keep taking your insulin
- Test glucose more often than normal
- Drink lots of water or sugar free drinks to avoid dehydration
- Check for ketones – you can get strips from your care team to test your urine
- Try to eat – if you can’t, drink sugary or milky drinks, try ice cream or suck on sweets.
- Don’t worry about taking sugary medicine – small amounts won’t matter.
Driving and diabetes
You will need to let the DVLA know you have diabetes.
If you have diabetes and drive you will need to check the following:
- Blood glucose 2 hours before driving
- Check your blood every 2 hours if you’re on a long journey
- Travel with sugary snacks and snacks with long last carbs i.e. cereal bar or banana.
If you feel your levels are low you should stop the car as soon as it’s safe. Check your blood glucose and treat your hypoglycaemia. Do not drive for 45 minutes after you start to feel better.
Courses for type 1 diabetes
Diabetes courses are encouraged for everyone with type 1 diabetes. It doesn’t matter how long you have had it.
There are different ways to do it and the courses are free.
You learn in a small group and meet people going through the same thing – this can give you support during and after the course. Courses usually run for 4 days.
What you’ll learn:
- Carb counting and insulin adjustment
- What to do if you’re ill.
Learning online means you can take the course at your own pace and at a time that suits you. You can leave and come back anytime.
This might be useful if you have just been diagnosed as there is a lot to take in, or if you have already done a course but need a refresher. Online courses are designed for everyone with any level of computer skills. You can do it on your phone, tablet or laptop.
Click on the icons below to access online courses.
Going for regular check ups
Diabetes can damage your nerves. Let your GP or diabetes nurse know if you notice any changes. Early treatment can prevent nerve damage getting worse.
Diabetes can reduce the blood supply to your feet and cause a loss of feeling. Foot injuries don’t heal as well; this can lead to ulcers and infections.
Check your feet every day and speak to your GP or diabetes nurse if you notice any changes.
Please see the link below for more information on how to check your feet:
Annual eye check-up
Your eyes should be checked every year; it’s called diabetic eye screening. This is to check the blood vessels in your eye have not been damaged.
Speak to your GP straight away if you are experiencing blurred vision, shapes floating in your vision or have sudden sensitivity to light and they will direct you to the most appropriate service to have further checks.
Annual heart check-up
You should have your blood cholesterol and blood pressure checked at least once a year. If you smoke, you should stop. Diabetes makes the effects of smoking on your heart worse.
Annual flu vaccine
Get vaccinated for flu every year. Everyone with type 1 diabetes can get it for free. Check with your GP surgery when they offer the flu vaccine. It will usually be around October & November time.
Useful information about my type 1 diabetes
Please click the links below for more information about type 1 diabetes.
Videos about type 1 diabetes
Please click the boxes below to watch videos about type 1 diabetes.
What is Type 1 diabetes? | Diabetes UK
Diabetes UK | Published 10 April 2018
What is a hypo? How to recognise and treat a hypo | Diabetes UK
Diabetes UK | Published 16 April 2013
What is Type 1 diabetes? A children's guide | Diabetes UK
Diabetes UK | Published 23 April 2014
Type 1 diabetes and uni life | #UNItype | Diabetes UK
Diabetes UK | Published 11 October 2017
Waiting for a specialist opinion
If you have been referred for a specialist opinion your details will be reviewed and it may be recommended that you are seen by a hospital clinician. Information to support you in choosing your preferred hospital, including waiting times can be found using the links below.
How long will I wait?
If a hospital assessment and/or treatment is clinically recommended your information will be sent to a specialist. Click below to find out more about waiting times for routine hospital assessment and/or treatment.
What support is available?
Further support for managing my type 1 diabetes
Please click the links and icons below for more information
- T1 Resources - Find support and information to help you manage type 1 diabetes
- JDRF - Information and support for people living with type 1 diabetes
- Digibete - a resource for young people and their families living with type 1 diabetes
This page was last reviewed: February 2020
“This website is still under development.
Please bear with us as we add new content."