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What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition. If you have type 1 diabetes it means your immune system is attacking the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin meaning that it can no longer produce the insulin you need.

Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed in childhood (although you can develop it at any time) – in fact, it is one of the most common chronic childhood conditions in developed nations, and the number of cases being diagnosed is increasing each year.

Type 1 diabetes represents 10 to 15 per cent of all cases of diabetes, and 119,000 Australians are currently living with it. There is no cure.

Type 1 diabetes is not caused by lifestyle factors, although the exact causes are still unknown. However, following a healthy lifestyle can help you to live well with type 1 diabetes, and to reduce the risk of developing dangerous complications.

Why do I need insulin?

If you have type 1 diabetes you will need to regularly monitor your blood glucose levels and either inject insulin or use an insulin pump to replace the insulin your pancreas cannot produce.

Without insulin your body will be unable to break down the glucose in the food that you eat – your body’s main source of energy. If you don’t get the insulin you need to process the glucose in your blood your body will resort to burning fat instead. This releases dangerous chemical substances into your blood and can cause a serious condition called ketoacidosis. Meanwhile, if your blood glucose levels rise too high, you could be at risk of hyperglycaemia.

You can find more information about managing insulin-related illness at:

Need help or advice?

If you’d like more information or guidance about living with type 1 diabetes, speak to a member of your diabetes healthcare team or contact the Diabetes NSW & ACT Helpline on 1300 342 238 and ask to speak to a diabetes educator.

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