Although diabetes can't be cured, it can be managed and kept
under control. Anyone diagnosed with diabetes should seek
treatment immediately to prevent associated illnesses.
The type of treatment depends on the type of diabetes.
In both types, dietary measures play a crucial role. Specially trained
dieticians can offer invaluable advice on suitable foods - see the
Healthy living section.
Type 1 is treated with insulin and by eating a healthy diet
Treating type 1 diabetes
Type 1 is treated with insulin and by eating a healthy diet. Insulin
can't be taken by mouth because the digestive juices in the stomach
destroy it. This means that for most people it has to be given by
injections. Most people find giving the injections simple and relatively
painless, since the needle is so fine.
How often someone needs to inject depends on what their diabetes
specialist has recommended, and which type of insulin they're using.
Insulin is given at regular intervals throughout the day, usually two to
Each injection may contain one, or a combination of different types
of insulin, which act for a short, intermediate or longer period of time.
Injections can be given using either a traditional needle and plastic syringe,
or with an injection pen device, which many people find more convenient.
An automatic insulin pump is available, which means that fewer injections
are needed. The needle is sited under the skin, and connected to a small
electrical pump that attaches to a belt or waistband and is about the size
of a pager. Inside is a reservoir of fast-acting insulin which is delivered
continuously at an adjustable rate.
Inhaled insulin has recently become available for treating people with a
proven needle phobia or people who have severe trouble injecting.
What is insulin?
Insulin was first used to treat diabetes in 1921. Under normal
circumstances, it's made by beta cells that are part of a cluster
of hormone-producing cells in the pancreas.
The hormone regulates the level of glucose in the blood, preventing
the level from going too high. Insulin enables cells to take up the amount
of glucose they need to provide themselves with enough energy to function
properly. It also allows any glucose left over to be stored in the liver.
Most insulin used today is 'human insulin', although some people still use
insulin from cows and pigs. 'Human insulin' is a product of genetic
engineering, where bacteria bred in a laboratory are given a gene
that allows them to produce insulin.
Type 2 may have been considered the 'milder' form of diabetes in
the past, but this is no longer the case
Treating type 2 diabetes
Type 2 may have been considered the 'milder' form of diabetes in the past,
but this is no longer the case. For many people, type 2 diabetes can be
controlled by diet alone. Medication in tablet form is used when diet
doesn't provide adequate control.
The different types of tablets work by one of these methods:
helping the pancreas to make more insulin
increasing the use of glucose and decreasing glucose production
slowing down the absorption of glucose from the intestine
stimulating insulin release from the pancreas
enabling the body to use its natural insulin more effectively
Over time, a careful diet combined with oral medication may not be
sufficient to keep the diabetes under control. If this is the case then
insulin injections may be recommended.