Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that affects the pancreas, causing disruptions in the production of insulin. As a result, patients with this autoimmune condition have high blood glucose and other metabolic issues, which can have a severe impact on health. Like most other autoimmune diseases, type 1 diabetes is caused by defects in the immune mechanisms of the body, likely caused by genetic abnormalities (Huether & McCance, 2015).
Although type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and adolescents, there are cases of late onset of the disease. The present paper will outline the key information about the condition and provide recommendations on treatment and nursing care.
Under normal conditions, insulin is secreted by beta cells located in the pancreas. In persons with type 1 diabetes, this process is disrupted due to the autoimmune response attacking beta cells and reducing their capacity to produce insulin. T cells play a major role in this process, as they mediate the killing of beta cells in the pancreas (Atkinson, von Herrath, Powers, & Clare-Salzler, 2015). When 75-80% of beta cells are destroyed, insulin production drops significantly, and there is a steep increase in blood glucose, which allows diagnosing type 1 diabetes.
The symptoms of type 1 diabetes may include unexplained weight loss, increased thirst, frequent urination, vision problems, and other general abnormalities. However, the only way to establish the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is through blood tests. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2015), type 1 diabetes is diagnosed on the basis of fasting blood glucose at or over 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L). Also, an HbA1c test may be conducted, and the expected result in persons with type 1 diabetes are at least 6.5 percent on two separate occasions (NIHCE, 2015). If the results of a fasting blood glucose test are healthy, the doctor might also prescribe a random blood glucose test or a glucose tolerance test to determine abnormalities in insulin production and use.
The standard treatment of type 1 diabetes involves reducing blood sugar levels by supplementing insulin to the body while also managing the risks of complications. As explained by NIHCE (2015), the standard treatment for the condition involves insulin injections, blood glucose monitoring, and a special diet. After the diagnosis is confirmed, the doctor also sets target blood sugar and A1c levels, which are used to monitor the patient’s progress.
Nurses play an essential role in the management of type 1 diabetes, as they can provide education and support to patients who were diagnosed with this condition. First of all, it is essential to provide patients with comprehensive information on the management of the disease. Adequate patient education is critical since it helps to ensure compliance with the prescribed treatment plan. Secondly, nurses can also help to track patients’ progress by measuring their glucose levels and comparing them to the target levels set by a doctor.
Finally, due to the risk of hyper- and hypoglycemia in type 1 diabetes, nurses should also equip patients with information about managing the condition at home by making injections, and testing blood glucose regularly. This would help patients to avoid the complications associated with blood sugar levels that are too high or too low.
All in all, type 1 diabetes is a clear example of an autoimmune disease that disrupts the metabolic functioning of the body. Although the condition cannot be cured completely, there are well-established evidence-based guidelines that allow patients to manage type 1 diabetes and control blood sugar levels themselves. As the disease requires a significant degree of self-care, it is crucial for nurses to provide patients with the information and skills needed to manage the disease and promote their well-being independently.
Atkinson, M. A., von Herrath, M., Powers, A. C., & Clare-Salzler, M. (2015). Current concepts on the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes—Considerations for attempts to prevent and reverse the disease. Diabetes Care, 38(6), 979-988.
Huether, S. E., & McCance, K. L. (2015). Understanding pathophysiology (6th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Health Sciences.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NIHCE). (2015). Type 1 diabetes in adults: Diagnosis and management. Web.