Type 1 Diabetes Treatment: Insulin Therapy

Insulin TherapyIn type 1 diabetes the pancreas no longer produces insulin (or at least not a significant amount) therefore the primary type 1 diabetes treatment consists of giving the body insulin as closely as we can to the way the body would do it naturally.

There is no one right way to manage diabetes, since many different types of insulin treatment can successfully control blood sugar levels.  The type of insulin treatment varies from person to person, and can depend on many individual factors – including age and life style.

All patients with type 1 diabetes will eventually require insulin. There is still no way of taking insulin orally and Insulin must be given as a shot.


Insulin Dosage

There is no correct dose of insulin and insulin needs change from person to person. When first starting insulin therapy, it takes some time to find the right dose. A doctor or nurse will help to adjust your dose over time. It is important to check your blood sugar level several times per day during this time.

Many type 1 diabetics have what is called a ‘honeymoon’ period for the first few months (or even year) after being diagnosed. Insulin requirements are relatively lower during this time, and when it ends patients insulin needs rise dramatically.

Insulin needs often change over your lifetime. Changes in weight, diet, health conditions (including pregnancy), activity level, emotional states, and work can affect the amount of insulin you need to take in order to control your blood sugar.

Over time, people with type 1 diabetes usually learn to adjust their own insulin dose, although you will need help from time to time. Most people with type 1 diabetes meet with a doctor or nurse every three to four months, and review blood sugar levels and insulin doses at these visits, helping to fine-tune diabetes control.

There are a few types of insulin, which can be used alone or in combination in order to treat type 1 diabetes.


Insulin Regimens 

There are two general types of insulin treatment plans: intensive insulin treatment and standard (conventional) insulin treatment. In general, intensive insulin therapy is recommended for people with type 1 diabetes. Standard insulin treatment is an older regimen, although it may still be recommended for selected patients.

Intensive insulin treatment — Intensive insulin treatment is best for keeping blood sugar in tight control. You will need to take 3 or more insulin shots per day or use an insulin pump, and you will need to check your blood sugar frequently.

Intensive insulin therapy is recommended for most people with type 1 diabetes because it gives you the best chance for successful blood sugar control, and it is best to start it as soon as possible. However, this regimen will be successful only if you are fully committed to it and you have good understanding of the regimen—this means checking your sugars 4 or more times a day.

The drawback to intensive insulin control is that you might experience a higher rate of low blood sugars (hypoglycemia) and it is about 3 times as expensive as standard insulin treatment.

Intensive insulin therapy usually entails a long acting insulin (like glargine or detemir) that is used as a basal insulin, and an additional rapid insulin (lispro, aspart, or glusine) every time you eat. Insulin Pump Therapy is another way of achieving intensive insulin therapy. 

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