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Living with type 1 diabetes

Publish date: 06/05/2014

Tags: Diabetes

'I had no symptoms'

‘I had no symptoms of diabetes’

Anne Jenkins a 47 year old teacher who lives in Sussex, with her husband and two children, developed diabetes last year. She had no classic symptoms of the disease and  it was only because she had a routine screening that it was picked up.

‘Two years ago I had a routine blood test at my GP surgery to check my blood sugar levels. It was part of an overall MOT check-up – I also had my blood pressure and cholesterol tested and I had no reason to suspect anything might be wrong. I considered myself fit and healthy, I wasn’t a heavy drinker or anything and wasn’t overweight.

‘I was surprised to learn though that my blood sugar was quite high – slightly above the normal range. My body mass index was at the high end of normal I’m 5ft 8 inches tall and weighed 82 kilos.

My late mother had type 1 diabetes so I was very familiar with the symptoms of the disease including thirst and tiredness, but I hadn’t had any of those.
My GP said that I could probably control it by making some changes to my diet. She suggested I start eating breakfast –a meal I usually skipped - to help stabilise my blood sugar and encouraged me not to need snacks later in the day. I took her advice and actually lost some weight – only a few kilos nothing drastic - and my blood sugar came down too .

Because of my family history though, my GP advised that I should monitor my blood sugar with finger print blood tests. Over the next couple of months my blood sugar started to climb again and I started to lose a lot of weight for no obvious reason . Everyone was saying how great I looked and asking me what my secret was and I began to wonder if something was wrong, although hand on heart I still didn’t feel unwell.

My GP prescribed me an anti diabetes drug called Sitagliptin to see if it could stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin, and my blood sugar levels did come down slightly - but not enough to get it in the normal range and I was still losing weight . I still didn’t feel ill though and I was getting all these compliments about my weight loss – I was now down to 62 kg - and being told I looked amazing.
I was referred to a hospital diabetes specialist last August because my GP suspected I may have developed type 1 diabetes. I was later diagnosed by the specialist as having Latent Auto Immune Diabetes of Adulthood (LADA) –a strain of type 1 diabetes that develops later in life. I was told this would mean I would have to inject insulin three times a day for the rest of my life.

Type 1 diabetes develops when the insulin producing cells in the body have been destroyed and the body is unable to produce any insulin.It’s an auto immune condition , which means your body’s own immune system mistakes the cells in your pancreas as harmful and attacks them, either destroying them or damaging them so they can’t produce insulin.

LADA can be difficult to differentiate from type 2 diabetes because of its slow onset , but I've read that LADA patients are usually younger and thinner than type 2 diabetics.

I’m quite a pragmatic type of person: whilst I’m not particularly happy that I’ve got LADA – I also saw my mother manage to live a very full life despite having type 1 diabetes, even 40 years ago.

I came to terms with my diagnosis quite quickly and have been determined ever since that it shouldn’t encroach on my life.

My GP,specialist and diabetes nurse have been absolutely fantastic. My nurse demonstrated how to inject myself and said I could call her at any time.

Since last September 2013, I’ve been injecting myself with insulin three times a day before each meal and have another baseline injection to help keep my insulin levels stable. It’s not a big deal it just enables me to carry on living a normal life. I’m sensible about what I eat but I can still have a curry, a cake or a high carb meal if I balance that out with more insulin. I’ve worked out that 20g of carbohydrates roughly equates to 2 units of insulin, and I’ve got a very handy app for my phone which can calculate how much insulin I will need if I have certain foods.

I may also go on a Dose Adjustment for Normal Eating Course (DAFNE) to learn how to calculate the amount of insulin I need for the amount of carbohydrates I choose to eat.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones because if I hadn’t been picked up on a screening test, I might never have been diagnosed as I just didn’t have the classic diabetes symptoms – I wasn’t overweight, didn’t feel tired , thirsty or need the loo more often. I think my case illustrates that having regular health check ups is well worth it.’

For more information on diabetes read our useful factsheet or submit any questions you might have to one of our online experts who will answer in a couple of days.

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