Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the pancreas does not produce any insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body to control the level of glucose (sugar) in your blood. Without insulin, glucose builds up in your blood instead of being used for energy.

Your body produces glucose and also gets glucose from foods like bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, milk and fruit.

The cause of type 1 diabetes remains unknown. It is not caused by eating too much sugar, and is not preventable. The current thought is that type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system destroys the cells that make insulin.

Insulin therapy

Insulin therapy is required for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. 

There are a variety of insulins available to help manage diabetes. Insulin is injected by pen, syringe or pump. Your doctor will work with you to determine:

  • The number of insulin injections you need per day
  • The timing of your insulin injections
  • The dose of insulin you need with each injection

The insulin treatment your doctor prescribes will depend on your goals, age, lifestyle, meal plan, general health and motivation. Social and financial factors may also need to be considered.

The good news

You can live a long and healthy life by keeping your blood glucose (sugar) levels in the target range set by you and your health-care provider:

You can do this by:

  • Taking insulin as recommended (and other medications, if prescribed by your doctor)
  • Monitoring your blood glucose (sugar) levels regularly using a home blood glucose meter*
  • Eating healthy meals and snacks
  • Enjoying regular physical activity
  • Aiming for a healthy body weight
  • Managing stress effectively

* Discuss with your health-care provider how often you should measure your blood glucose (sugar) level.

Who can help you?

Your health-care team is there to help you. Depending on your needs and the resources available in your community, your team may include a family doctor, diabetes educator (nurse and/or dietitian), endocrinologist, pharmacist, social worker, exercise physiologist, psychologist, foot care specialist, eye care specialist. They can answer your questions about how to manage diabetes and work with you to adjust your food plan, activity and medications.

Remember, you are the most important member of your health-care team.

Get the support you need

A positive and realistic attitude toward your diabetes can help you manage it. Talk to others who have type 1 diabetes or their caregivers. Ask your local Canadian Diabetes Association branch about additional resources, joining a peer-support group or taking part in an information session.