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What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes occurs when your body is unable to produce any insulin. It is an ‘auto-immune’ condition which means that insulin producing cells in the pancreas (called beta cells) are destroyed by the body’s own immune system. As a result the body does not produce any insulin.

The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is not yet known, however it is thought that certain environmental factors or viruses as well as genetic factors may have an impact. Unlike type 2 diabetes, it cannot be prevented. We also know that the development of type 1 diabetes is not linked with lifestyle, although maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important in helping to manage type 1 diabetes.

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Understanding blood glucose & ketone levels

For people who have been diagnosed with diabetes and who are taking medications, being aware of your blood glucose (also called blood sugar) level is a vital part of managing your diabetes and keeping healthy. It will tell you how well your body is responding to medications, changes in diet and exercise.

Your body usually runs on glucose (sugar) created when the body breaks down food. But when your body doesn't have enough insulin to use the glucose, your body starts breaking down fats for energy. Ketones are a by-product of this breakdown. People with type 1 diabetes are also at risk of having a more than normal amount of ketones in their blood. The presence of ketones is one of the signs that you need medical help. Your diabetes health care professional will advise you if monitoring ketones is required.

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What is HbA1c?

The HbA1c test is a measure of an average blood glucose (average blood sugar) level over the past few months and can be used as an indicator of your diabetes control. Inside the body the glucose (sugar) sticks to part of the red blood cells called haemoglobin – haemoglobin is what gives blood cells their red colour.

This sugar-haemoglobin combination is called HbA1c. Once the glucose becomes ‘stuck’ to the red blood cell it stays stuck until the red blood cell dies. This takes about three months. As red blood cells die, new ones are produced. If the new red blood cells don’t end up with glucose stuck to them, because of better blood glucose control, then the overall HbA1c will decrease.

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Technology to track & manage your diabetes

Smart software platforms and apps are a great way for you to immediately see your blood glucose or ketone results on your laptop or phone. They can help you track and monitor your levels through graphs, statistics and other software. You can share with family or your healthcare provider which may help with the overall management of your diabetes.

Understanding the diabetes language

If you have been recently diagnosed with diabetes the medical terms used to describe the condition may seem confusing and overwhelming.

Click on the link below to see a list of commonly used diabetes words and their meaning. This may help you better understand the information you are given, allowing you to have more effective conversations with your health care professional.

Diabetes terms