Type 1 diabetes is always treated with insulin injections - this is because their pancreas has stopped making insulin so this needs to be replaced to keep them alive.
People with type 2 diabetes are often given medications including insulin to help control their blood glucose levels. There are several types of tablets to manage Type 2 diabetes and these all work in different ways. Insulin is used in Type 2 diabetes as well as some newer injectable therapies (which are not insulin) and are designed to help manage blood glucose control and weight. Discuss the different options for managing Type 2 diabetes with your care team.
Insulin comes in injectable form - injections being the most reliable form of medication. It is important that the person with diabetes learns how to do these injections safely. They can ask their doctor, an official diabetes educator or a qualified registered nurse how to do this.
Insulin can be injected into the abdomen (tummy), the upper outer arms (not into muscle), the buttocks (bottom) or the upper outer thighs (top part of the legs).
The amount of insulin to be injected needs to be advised by medical professionals.
Every person is different in height, weight and the signs and symptoms of their diabetes. The levels of insulin that needs to be injected each day will also be different from person to person because of differences in levels of physical activity and food intake.
A person with diabetes should aim to maintain a blood sugar/glucose level of between 4 to 6 mmol/L (some experts recommend a slightly larger range - between 3.5 to 6.5 mmol/L).
When a person develops type 2 diabetes they need to monitor their blood glucose level 2-4 times a day.
There are a number of devices available to do self-testing of blood glucose, most require a single drop of blood. For this process, the person needs a little needle to prick a part of the body – usually the finger – to get a little drop of blood.
They also need testing strips upon which to put the drop of blood. This strip (with the drop of blood on it) is inserted into a little handheld machine called a glucometer (which means glucose [gluco] reader [meter]). This machine shows the level at the time of testing.
Self-monitoring informs the patient how well the medication is working and how well they are managing the diet and exercise together to control diabetes.It is also essential in helping the person with diabetes prevent further diabetes related complications due to high levels of glucose in the blood.
A person with diabetes usually has to visit many different health professionals.They will have to go to their general practitioner at least four times a year for regular testing, for their prescriptions and for general care.
They may visit a diabetes educator to learn about how to monitor sugar levels and to get general advice about medications, foot and eye care, levels of exercise and eating/shopping patterns.
To assist with diet, they may also visit a dietitian or a nutritionist who will advise them on what to eat and what not to eat, what to shop for and what not to shop for, etc.
Feet are very susceptible to damage when you have diabetes. You will thus have to visit a podiatrist regularly so that they can check your nails and skin and so that they can advise you on shoes, infections, ulcers, etc.
The eyes are also very susceptible. The person with diabetes has to visit an eye specialist – this might be an optician, an ophthalmologist and/or an optometrist. Each of these professionals have different functions in the management of eyes – you might thus have to visit all three each year.
If a person with diabetes is starting to get complications (eg, with their heart, their liver, their skin care) they may need to visit specialists in the hospital and/or they may need to stay in the hospital. They will also come into contact with nurses and with other health professionals like counsellors and occupational therapists.
Regular visits to the pharmacist are required to get medications and some people with diabetes might also go for alternative medicine (eg, Chinese medicine).
Rizwana Kousar 2010. What is Diabetes? Community Education Series, Melbourne. © Australian Community Centre for Diabetes (ACCD).