Five Misconceptions About Type 1 Diabetes
A diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is the beginning of a lifelong health journey, and it may feel overwhelming. If you or your child has received a diagnosis, one of the best things you can do as a next step is to educate yourself about the condition. To make sure you have the information you need, we’ve debunked common myths about type 1 diabetes.
Myth: Type 1 diabetes is only diagnosed in childhood.
Type 1 diabetes was once referred to as juvenile diabetes, and it’s true that it’s most commonly diagnosed during childhood or adolescence. However, a diagnosis can come at any age, and symptoms may first develop in adulthood.
It can be difficult to identify type 1 diabetes in adults, as early symptoms often develop rapidly and can be mistaken as illness. Here are some common signs to watch for:
- Frequent urination
- Extreme thirst
- Increased appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
Other symptoms include drowsiness, vision changes, difficulty breathing, and loss of consciousness.
Undiagnosed diabetes can lead to life-threatening complications. If you experience any of the symptoms above, speak with your provider about an evaluation for a potential diagnosis.
Myth: It can be reversed with lifestyle changes.
Type 2 diabetes, the more common of the two main types of diabetes, develops gradually as the result of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. This is not the case with type 1. While the exact causes of type 1 diabetes aren’t entirely understood, it is considered an autoimmune condition, which means that a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks their own tissues and organs.
In type 1 diabetes, the body attacks the pancreas, destroying its ability to produce insulin. As a result, people with type 1 diabetes need insulin every day. (This is another important distinction between the two types of diabetes — type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance, meaning that the pancreas produces some insulin, but cells don’t respond normally to it.)
Many autoimmune disorders run in families, and type 1 diabetes is thought to have a genetic component. Having a parent or sibling with the condition may increase a person’s risk for developing it.
Myth: If you have type 1 diabetes, you can’t eat sugar.
A common myth about both type 1 and type 2 diabetes is that they’re caused by sugar. This is not true, and people with either type of diabetes can indeed consume sugar.
That said, managing blood sugar is one of the most important aspects of diabetes treatment, and diet can significantly affect a person’s blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates increase blood sugar levels more than any other nutrient. Since daily insulin dosages are based on daily insulin-to-carb ratios, people with diabetes need to monitor their carb intake.
This doesn’t mean that you have to avoid carbohydrates altogether, but rather that you need to plan ahead and maintain a balanced diet. You should still be able to eat a variety of foods so long as you plan meals carefully and spread your carbohydrate intake throughout the day.
Myth: You can’t lead an active life with type 1 diabetes.
Quite the opposite! In fact, regular physical activity is as important for people with diabetes as it is for anyone else. However, there are extra fitness-related considerations to account for when you have diabetes.
Exercise is another factor in blood sugar levels, and some people experience decreased blood sugar during or after exercise. A variety of factors can affect your blood sugar response to exercise, including:
- Your blood sugar levels prior to exercise
- The intensity of your chosen activity
- The duration of exercise
- Your insulin doses
To exercise safely as a person with diabetes, check your blood sugar before, during, and after exercise, and be prepared to treat low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia.
Generally speaking, mild hypoglycemia can be treated by following the 15-15 rule: eat fifteen grams of carbohydrates to restore blood sugar levels to a healthy range and check your levels again after fifteen minutes. If your blood sugar is still below 70 mg/dL or your own personal target, eat fifteen more grams of carbohydrates. Repeat these steps until your blood sugar is back to normal, then eat a meal or snack to maintain it.
Consuming the following items may help raise your blood sugar:
- 3-4 glucose tablets
- 1 dose of glucose gel
- 4 ounces (½ cup) of juice or regular soda (not diet)
- 1 tablespoon of sugar, honey, or syrup
Myth: Treatment stays the same throughout a person’s life.
While treatment for type 1 diabetes isn’t as varied as treatment for type 2 diabetes, and everyone with type 1 diabetes needs insulin therapy, a person’s insulin needs will likely change throughout their life.
The physical changes caused by puberty and pregnancy often lead to evolving diabetes treatment needs, including different blood sugar targets and insulin dosages. Plus, as you learn more about diabetes and become more familiar with your body’s needs, you may find that you have a different experience of living with the condition.
Given the complexities of diabetes management, it’s important to regularly see an endocrinologist who can evaluate your insulin needs and the effectiveness of your treatment plan.
A partner in your diabetes treatment
Alto is with you every step of the way in managing your or your child’s diabetes. We make it simple to follow the treatment plan your doctor recommends, with proper packaging of temperature-controlled medications and same-day delivery right to your doorstep.
We also provide personalized support via in-app messaging. If you have questions about insulin therapy, side effects, insurance terminology, or anything else related to diabetes treatment, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.