Type 1 Diabetes including Children
It can be overwhelming to receive a new diagnosis at any age, but it can be especially daunting when the diagnosis occurs in someone who is still a child. While type 1 diabetes can affect people of all ages, it occurs most often in people under 30 years of age. It is one of the most common chronic conditions in childhood.
Type 1 diabetes is different to type 2 diabetes because type 1 is not related to lifestyle factors and is instead caused by an autoimmune response. The body’s own immune system destroys the insulin-producing pancreatic cells leading to an inability to produce insulin. At this time, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes and it cannot be prevented. Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 10-15% of all people living with diabetes.
The onset of type 1 diabetes can happen quite suddenly and the symptoms may include excessive thirst and urination, unexplained weight loss, weakness, fatigue and blurred vision.
The only treatment for type 1 diabetes is insulin, either through multiple daily injections or through an insulin pump. Additional treatment strategies include eating a healthy, balanced diet with accurate carbohydrate counts, checking blood glucose levels and physical activity.
For the parent/carer of a child with type 1 diabetes
Kids like to be kids and for children with type 1 diabetes, the daily management of taking insulin, checking blood glucose levels and monitoring carbohydrate intake can be a hassle. Reducing some of the burden of daily management can go a long way to helping kids with type 1 diabetes be kids.
Technology and other advancements in the type 1 diabetes space have help to eliminate some of the daily burden associated with type 1, and this includes advancements in the way insulin is delivered, monitored and injected. Read on to find out more about some of these advancements and whether they may be right for you or your loved one with type 1 diabetes.
Blood glucose monitoring
Checking blood glucose levels multiple times throughout the day is usually recommended for people with type 1 diabetes. You can find meters on the market today designed for frequent use and some meters check blood glucose as well as ketones using the same drop of blood. Newer models of meters wirelessly sync with your smart phone to make interpreting your blood glucose trends easier. Talk to your diabetes team to select the best meter for you and your circumstances.
Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) and flash glucose monitoring
Advancements in glucose monitoring have made it possible to avoid pricking your fingers multiple times a day. CGM or continuous glucose monitoring, monitors glucose levels throughout the day and night using a sensor placed just under the skin. Readings are sent to a transmitter and can be viewed on a receiver, which for some CGM models is a smart phone. These small, wearable devices can help provide children and parents or carers peace of mind.
There are many benefits to using CGM, including:
- Continuous glucose readings throughout the day and night provide more information about glucose trends and patterns than a one-off finger prick blood glucose reading.
- Trend arrows, indicating which direction the glucose levels are heading (up or down), can help prevent a hypo or hyperglycaemia.
- Smart phone connectivity, available with many CGMs models, allows up to five devices to connect, allowing a parent or carer to view readings.
- Monitor levels overnight.
- Alarms can be set to sound if levels are above or below the target range, helping to prevent dangerous hypos or overnight hypos.
It is important to remember that CGMs do not totally replace blood glucose meters. You will still need to calibrate your CGM using a blood glucose meter and it is recommended that you check your blood glucose using a finger prick if levels are changing rapidly or if having a hypo. CGMs are not for everyone. It is important to discuss with your Credentialled diabetes educator to determine whether it is right for you or your loved one.
Flash glucose monitoring is an alternative to CGM that uses a patch, typically placed on the back of the arm, to monitor glucose levels by flashing, or scanning, a meter across the patch. The Freestyle Libre is available in Australia and uses flash glucose monitoring technology. While the amount of information available with the flash monitor is not quite as robust as with a CGM, it is an alternative may be helpful
The NDSS fully subsidises CGM and flash glucose monitoring products for eligible people through the CGM initiative as part of the NDSS. If you want to learn about CGM or flash glucose monitoring, or to determine whether you or your loved one is eligible for the CGM subsidy, speak with your diabetes team or the NDSS Helpline at 1800 637 700.
Another advancement in the management of type 1 diabetes is the insulin pump. An insulin pump is a small device that is worn on the body and a small cannula or infusion set is inserted just below the skin and delivers insulin. With an insulin pump, you no longer have to administer multiple daily injections. Some insulin pumps can pair with a CGM, offering even greater flexibility.
An insulin pump can be worn in the pocket, on a belt or in a special pouch. Infusion sets need to be changed every two to three days. Some people have a reaction to the sticky tape of the infusion set. In these cases, a barrier spray may help prepare the skin and an adhesive remover can help to remove any leftover stickiness.
If you have questions about whether an insulin pump is right for you or your loved one with type 1 diabetes, speak to your diabetes educator or a member of your diabetes team.
Multiple daily injections (MDI) advancements
An insulin pump may not be for everyone with type 1 diabetes. The alternative is multiple daily injections or MDI. Fortunately, many products have made MDI easier.
The TickleFlex insulin injection aid virtually eliminates bruising and pain caused by injections. The TickleFlex pulls up a small amount of skin, helping to avoid hitting a nerve or muscle with the injection, and the raised bumps make it so you barely feel the injection.
The i-Port advance cannula also helps those on MDI to eliminate the need to puncture your skin with each shot. Insulin injections are administered into the i-Port and it can be worn up to three days.
Speak with your diabetes educator or a member of your diabetes team if you have questions about either of these products.
Kids’ medication wallets
Kids with type 1 diabetes have to transport their insulin and blood glucose testing supplies with them everywhere they go. Fortunately, cooling wallets and travel cases are available in fun, portable cases making it even easier for kids to keep their supplies with them at all times.
Speak with your GP, diabetes educator or a member of your diabetes team if you have questions about type 1 diabetes management and whether any of these products are right for you.
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