Skip to main content

Diabetes Type 1: Management


The goal of managing type 1 diabetes is to delay or prevent complications. Complications can include kidney disease, heart and blood vessel disease, and eye and skin conditions.


Have someone call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You cannot be woken.
  • You have signs of diabetic ketoacidosis:
    • confusion, fatigue
    • vomiting
    • rapid heartbeat
    • fruity smelling breath
    • extreme thirst
    • dry mouth and skin
  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest
    • You may also have any of the following:
      • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
      • Shortness of breath
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat
  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
    • Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Confusion or difficulty speaking
    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss

Call your provider if:

  • You have a sore or wound that will not heal.
  • You have a change in the amount you urinate.
  • Your blood sugar levels are higher than your target goals.
  • You often have lower blood sugar levels than your target goals.
  • Your skin is red, dry, warm, or swollen.
  • You have trouble coping with diabetes, or you feel anxious or depressed.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Manage your type 1 diabetes:

  • Check your blood sugar levels as directed and as needed. Several items are available to use to check your levels. Talk with your provider to find out which is best for you. The goal for blood sugar levels before meals is between 80 and 130 mg/dL and 2 hours after eating is lower than 180 mg/dL.
  • Know what to do if your blood sugar level is too high or too low. Levels that remain too high or too low can be life-threatening. Learn the signs or symptoms of high blood sugar levels such, as increased urination and fatigue. Also learn the signs or symptoms of low levels such as shakiness, sweating, or irritability. Always glucose tablets or glucose gel to take if levels are too low.
  • Take your insulin as directed. You will need insulin for the rest of your life. Your insulin may be given by injections, or you may have an insulin pump. The pump gives you a constant amount of insulin through the day. The amount changes when the number of carbohydrates (carbs) are entered. Your provider will talk to you about the best way for you to receive insulin.
  • Count your carbs, protein, and fats correctly. You will learn the amount of carbs, protein, and fat you will need every day. Each meal should have a balance of carbs, proteins, and fats. Eat whole grains, raw fruits, and steamed vegetables for fiber.
  • Know the risks if you choose to drink alcohol. Alcohol can cause your blood sugar levels to be low if you use insulin. Alcohol can cause high blood sugar levels and weight gain if you drink too much. Women 21 years or older and men 65 years or older should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day. Men aged 21 to 64 years should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung and blood vessel damage. It also makes it more difficult to manage your diabetes. Ask your provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine.
  • Be active 5 days or more, for a total of 150 minutes, in a week. Physical activity helps to lower your blood sugar levels and helps with weight management. It can also help decrease kidney and heart problems. Your provider can help you create an activity plan. The plan can include the best activities for you. The plan will tell you what your blood sugar level should be before exercise. Check your blood sugar level before and after you exercise and before driving.
    Walking for Exercise
  • Check your feet each day for cuts, scratches, calluses, or other wounds. Look for redness and swelling, and feel for warmth. Wear shoes that fit well. Check your shoes for rocks or other objects that can hurt your feet. Do not walk barefoot or wear shoes without socks. Wear cotton socks to help keep your feet dry.
  • Wear medical alert identification. Wear medical alert jewelry or carry a card that says you have diabetes. Ask your provider where to get these items.
    Medical Alert Jewelry
  • Go to follow-up appointments. You may be sent to different types of providers to check for complications of diabetes. Types of providers include heart (cardiologist), kidney (nephrologist), and nerve (neurologist) specialists. Complications of diabetes can start 3 to 5 years after your diagnosis. You will need to get your eyes checked every year or if you have problems with your vision.
  • Ask about vaccines. You have a higher risk for serious illness if you get the flu, pneumonia, or hepatitis. Ask your provider if you should get a flu, pneumonia, or hepatitis B vaccine, and when to get the vaccine.

Follow up with your diabetes care team provider as directed:

You may need to follow up with your provider more frequently if you are having problems. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.