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| May 22, 2019

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Understanding the illness: living with type 1 diabetes

Understanding the illness: living with type 1 diabetes
Louisa Streeting

Most people will know someone who is living with diabetes in the UK. Although the condition splits into two different types – 1 and 2 – doctors are currently unsure what causes type 1.

According to figures from JDRF, over 400,000 people in the UK were living with the disease. Although type 1 only amounts to 10% of people diagnosed with diabetes, it is an incredibly dangerous condition if it is not managed properly.

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes causes the level of glucose (sugar) in your blood to become too high when your body can’t produce enough insulin, which controls blood glucose.

The condition is managed through daily injections of insulin to keep your blood glucose levels under control.

NHS

Sammie Legg discovered she had type 1 diabetes when she was 20-years-old. Although very few people are born with the disease, most people discover they have developed the condition when they are in their teenage years.

After she sadly tried to take her own life five years ago, a series of tests confirmed she was living with the condition: “The unknown got thrown about like it was a joke, so I acted like it was. I didn’t care about my health or my lifestyle,” Sammie said. “It’s only been the past few years that I’ve really started to take my health into consideration.”

As Sammie didn’t experience any of the symptoms, such as feeling extreme thirst and blurred vision, the news came as a shock to her: “When I first got diagnosed, I didn’t have a clue what diabetes was or what I had to do, I was simply shown how to check my blood sugars and inject insulin, that’s it!”

Her day-to-day life changed drastically. She had to listen to her body in order to know what was happening and monitor her blood glucose levels and inject insulin.

“I have to think about every little thing I eat or do as it may affect my levels,” Sammie explained she wanted to dismantle the myth that eating too much sugar as a child causes diabetes.

© Type1badassxo

Living with the condition in the digital age

Sammie explained how there were a couple of devices along the way which have made her journey much easier: Freestyle Libre Sensor and Miao Miao Transmitter.

The freestyle libre sensor is a 2.5cm circular sensor (size of a 2 pence piece) that is applied to the upper arm continuously measuring the glucose concentration situated in your interstitial fluid: “I simply scan the device with my phone or blood glucose machine to read my blood glucose levels. No more finger pricking averaging eight times a day.”

“The MiaoMiao also has the ability to trigger an alarm at the slightest sign of glucose irregularity, meaning if I experience Hypoglycaemia (low sugar levels) or Hyperglycaemia (high sugar levels) an alarm will sound on my phone and continue to do so until my levels are corrected.”

Sammie also explained the MiaoMiao device, which sincs up to her smartphone via Bluetooth, can also share data with family and friends. She aims to share information about devices like these, helping to make people’s lives much easier when coping with the condition.

Freestyle Libre Sensor © Type1badassxo

How social media has helped raise awareness

To come to terms with the disease, Sammie reached out to other people with type 1 diabetes online. She set up an Instagram account under the name ‘Type1Badassxo’ – within six months she gained over 4,000 followers, building a community of people to discuss the illness.

“I receive messages about advice, other people’s stories and generally just helping each other get through this roller-coaster they call diabetes. Learning how others deal with day to day life opened my eyes a lot and I no longer felt alone.”

By expanding to other social media sites such as Whatsapp and Facebook, Sammie became committed to raising awareness of what it is like living with type 1 diabetes. When the community moved from strength to strength, her partner encouraged her to start an eBay shop selling diabetes supplies and accessories.

The ‘Type1Badassxo’ brand sells items such as insulin bags, stickers, medical alert key-rings, and bracelets: “Each of these amazing developments have been a huge success, one that I would not have achieved without the support of others,” said Sammie.

To view Sammie’s blog, visit her Facebook page and her Instagram. For more information on diabetes, visit the NHS website or talk to your local GP.

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