Type 1 and insulin

Diabetes is a condition in which your body is unable to use the glucose from the food you eat. Glucose comes from foods such as breads, cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruits and some vegetables. To use glucose, your body needs insulin. Insulin is made by a gland in your body called the pancreas. In type 1 diabetes, your body produces little or no insulin.

What happens in the body?

Our body cells need fuel to provide energy for living, breathing, seeing, and even thinking, just as a car needs fuel to drive. Our fuel comes from the food we eat, which is digested in the stomach and flows into the blood stream as glucose, a form of sugar. To get into the body cells, this glucose needs the assistance of a hormone called Insulin.

Normally a gland called the pancreas makes insulin, which carries the glucose in the blood into the cells. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces very little or no insulin at all. As a result the person cannot use the glucose in the food that he or she eats and the glucose levels in the blood rise.

Treatment of type 1 diabetes requires daily injections of insulin. This type of diabetes usually develops in young people under 30 years old, most often in childhood or as teenagers and it used to be called insulin-dependent or juvenile onset diabetes.

If you, or someone close to you, has just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you may find it difficult to accept and feel very upset and frightened or angry. This is completely normal.

The good news is that having type 1 diabetes does not mean that you have to stop doing things that you enjoy.

Learn as much as you can about your diabetes. The more you learn, the less fear you will have. Even if you have had diabetes for years, join Diabetes SA and attend a diabetes management course. Attend support group meetings in your area where you can share information and helpful tips with others in the same boat as you. Making friends with others who have type 1 diabetes will give you exactly the support you need.

If you feel you are not coping, don’t struggle on your own. Make an appointment to see a nurse educator who will help you to find a way to manage your condition whilst keeping your personal circumstances and lifestyle in mind.

Treating Type 1 diabetes

The aim of treatment is to bring blood glucose levels into the normal range, which is 4 – 6 mmol/l. Treatment includes –

  • healthy eating
  • exercise
  • insulin injections
  • tablets and\or insulin in type 2 diabetes

Good management entails regular blood glucose monitoring – that is, testing your blood glucose levels and adjusting your treatment accordingly.

Type Generic Name Onset Peak Action Duration
Short acting Turboboost Humalog* 0-15min 1 hour 3–5 hours
NovoRapid** 10-20 min 1-3 hours 3–5 hours
Regular Actrapid** 20-30 min 2-4 hours 5-8 hours
Humulin R*
Intermediate Acting NPH Protophane** 1.5 hour 4-12 hours 20 hours
Humulin N* 2-8 hours
Lente Monotard** 2.5 hours 7-15 hours 22 hours
Long Acting UltraLente Ultratard** 4 hours 8-24 hours 28 hours
Humulin L* 2 hours 6-8 hours 22-24 hours
Bi-phasic Premis Actraphane** 30 min 2-12 hours 24 hours
Mixtard** 30 min 2-12 hours 24 hours
Humulin30\70* 30 min 2-8 hours 14-16 hours
Humulog mix 25* 0-15min 1-8 hours 14-16 hours
* Produced by Eli Lilly
** Produced by Novo Nordisk