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Type 1 Diabetes Treatment Options

Carrie Mccorkindale, MPH, RD, CDE
May 13, 2020
March 6, 2023

People that have type 1 diabetes (T1D) find that having a routine, eating a nutritious and healthy diet at regular scheduled times, physical activity and taking medication (insulin) can keep blood sugars within range. People with type 1 diabetes (T1D) can live long, and happy lives with disease management and motivation. Advancements in medication types and delivery methods give people the freedom to choose which treatment options work best with their particular circumstance. The prognoses of T1D can be greatly improved with a combination of insulins and lifestyle choices.


Insulin pens and injection example. Courtesy of

Type 1 diabetes is managed through the use of a variety of insulins. People with T1D must work closely with their medical team to find the right insulin treatment for their condition. Insulin is either long acting (basal) or short acting (bolus). Basal insulin is often given at bedtime but it is becoming more popular now to give it twice per day because better blood sugar results are seen. Bolus insulin is given before meals to contain the rise in blood sugars after having eaten.

Insulin can be delivered via syringes or pens, pumps or new artificial pancreas systems. Frequency and type of insulin dosage vary on a case-by-case basis, and injections may be needed multiple times per day.

Side effects of Insulin

The benefits of T1D medications far outweigh their associated side effects. The most common side effects of insulin are injection site reactions, which includes redness, soreness or irritation around the area. People can also experience lowered potassium levels and a risk of hypoglycemia. 

Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Medications

Medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well as aspirin can be prescribed with insulin to help the overall health and treatment of diabetes. Since people with diabetes have an increased chance of cardiovascular disease, these drugs are used in combination with other diabetes medications.

Daily Monitoring and Lifestyle

Treatment for T1D includes monitoring and lifestyle choices in addition to medications. Each plays a role in the management and reduction of T1D’s effects.

Blood-sugar monitoring

Knowing your blood-sugar levels and acting accordingly are among the most important ways to treat T1D. Monitoring lets a person know when insulin may be needed to correct high blood sugar or when carbohydrates may be needed to correct low blood sugar. Monitoring blood sugar can be done using traditional blood-sugar meters or continuous glucose monitors (CGMs).

Taking Insulin When you Eat

People with T1D work with an endocrinologist and diabetes educators to determine proper insulin-to-carb ratios. This ratio is the amount of insulin needed to balance the intake of a certain amount of carbohydrates (typically measured in grams). Measuring the amount of carbohydrates and factoring the insulin to carb (I:C) ratio helps to maintain stable blood-sugar levels after eating.

For example, if your I:C is 1:12 and you have an apple that contains 24g carbs, you would take two units of insulin. Taking those two units of insulin prior to having the apple helps to avoid a high or low blood-sugar fluctuation post-snack.

Exercise and diet

A balanced diet is paramount to diabetic health. People with T1D benefit from a healthy mix of all four food groups (vegetables, protein, carbohydrates, and fats), with a focus on a lower intake of empty carbs. Eating well and exercising regularly are important. Ensuring proper nutritional intake and keeping a healthy weight help curb the effects of diabetic wear on the body.

Regular Medical Check-ups

People with T1D regularly meet with a team of medical professionals (endocrinologist, ophthalmologist, podiatrist, dentist, and dietitian) to help manage diabetes and to avoid the effects it has on the body.

It is important that people with all types of diabetes take care to monitor themselves carefully, with blood sugar checks, insulin, exercise, and other medications prescribed for blood pressure, and cholesterol. since diabetes can cause wear on the kidneys, eyes, heart and circulatory system. If you have consistently elevated blood sugars, dark urine, nausea/vomiting, spotty vision, or tingling, pain or numbness in the hands and feet, you may be showing some of these secondary signs. Medical teams should be well informed about your case of diabetes and readily prepared to help.

If you are not sure if some symptoms may be related to your diabetes, ask your doctor, specialist, or diabetes educator! 

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