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Type 1 Diabetes: Living With the Disease - What Happens

Your experience with type 1 diabetes will be different from that of other people. But your treatment will be the same: taking insulin, eating a balanced diet that spreads carbohydrate throughout the day, getting regular exercise, and checking your blood sugar levels.

If you work closely with your doctor and follow your treatment, you will feel better and more in control of your life. You also may prevent or delay complications.

Not everyone with diabetes develops complications from the disease. Keeping blood sugar levels within a target range may prevent or delay complications. If your teen with diabetes controls his or her blood sugar, he or she can avoid developing complications in young adulthood.

Injected insulin cannot perfectly match the action of a working pancreas, so you will have high and low blood sugar levels from time to time. If your blood sugar stays above your target range for a long time, your blood vessels and nerves may be damaged. This damage can lead to:

  • Microvascular disease, which affects your eyes or kidneys. Diabetic retinopathy and diabetic nephropathy develop without early signs. For more information, see the topics Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Nephropathy. You are also at risk for other eye diseases, such as cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Macrovascular disease, which affects your heart and your body's large blood vessels. Diabetes damages the lining of large blood vessels. They become clogged with hard, fatty deposits called plaque. This process, called atherosclerosis, narrows the vessels. A heart attack or stroke may occur when the blood vessels that supply your heart and brain are affected. Peripheral arterial disease develops when the large vessels in your legs are affected. This leads to problems with blood circulation in your legs and feet and causes changes in the skin color, decreased sensation, and leg cramps.
  • Diabetic neuropathy, which affects the nerves in your body. Diabetic neuropathy can decrease or block the movement of nerve signals through your organs, legs, arms, and other parts of your body. Nerve damage can affect functioning of internal organs, such as the stomach (gastroparesis), and your ability to feel pain when injured. When blood vessels and nerves are affected, bone and joint deformities can develop, especially in your feet (Charcot foot ). For more information, see the topic Diabetic Neuropathy.

People with diabetes often already have other health problems. These may include high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Or they may develop other health problems as diabetes progresses. These conditions, along with smoking, can cause diabetes complications or can make existing ones worse. Not smoking and controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol level can help prevent or help slow complications.

Other health problems in teens

Studies have found that teen girls are at higher risk than other people for diabetic ketoacidosis: they may skip insulin doses to lose weight.1

Eating disorders are also common among teens and young adults with diabetes. Eating disorders and the tendency to skip insulin injections can cause swings in blood sugar levels outside the target range. Eating disorders need to be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible to prevent serious health problems.

1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 05, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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