About type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, but usually affects people before the age of 40, and most commonly during childhood. It develops when your body can’t produce the hormone insulin. Insulin regulates the level of glucose in your blood. Glucose is a simple form of sugar found in foods and sugary drinks. It's absorbed by your body as a natural part of digestion and is carried around your body in your blood. When glucose reaches your body tissues, such as muscle cells, it's absorbed and converted into energy.
Insulin is secreted into your blood by your pancreas, which is a gland located behind your stomach. A shortage of insulin causes glucose to build up in your blood.
Causes of type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes develops when the cells in your pancreas that make insulin (beta cells) are destroyed by your body's immune system. Because of this, type 1 diabetes is known as an autoimmune disease. However, the way in which type 1 diabetes first starts isn’t fully understood at present, though it's possible it may be caused by a virus or run in families.
Monitoring your blood glucose level
You can use a home test kit to monitor your blood glucose level. This involves regularly taking a pinprick of blood from the side of your fingertip and putting a drop on a testing strip. A meter will read the result automatically.
Your 'normal' blood glucose range will be specific to you but a general guide for adults is:
- before meals: 4 to 7mmol/L
- after meals: less than 9mmol/L
- Your doctor will show you how to monitor your blood glucose levels and tell you how often you need to check it.
You may also need to have your levels of glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1C) tested at least twice a year. HbA1C is a protein that is produced when you have high blood glucose levels over a long period of time. The HbA1C test is done by taking blood from a vein in your arm or sometimes a drop of blood from a finger-prick. It’s used to see how well you’re controlling your blood sugar levels.