Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, is a form of diabetes caused by the immune system attacking the pancreas, making it unable to produce a hormone called insulin. If you have type 1 diabetes, while you were learning how to give yourself insulin and count carbohydrates, you were probably also told that you should wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace.
Wearing a medical ID bracelet for type 1 diabetes is important, because T1D can be unpredictable. You can do the same thing two days in a row and get wildly different results, as my friend Kim says. Even though you are doing your best to manage your blood sugar levels, that delicate balance between carbohydrates, insulin, and exercise can be tricky to make perfect. Because there’s more to your life than managing diabetes, this makes type 1 diabetes medical jewelry so important.
As people with type 1 diabetes do not produce their own insulin, if they do not have access to insulin for even a short time (and even less time if they are using an insulin pump which continuously infuses rapid acting insulin), diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) can develop, and cause symptoms of extreme high blood glucose, and ultimately, coma if left untreated. Insulin is necessary for survival, and in the event you go into DKA, paramedics and healthcare providers need to know that you are insulin dependent so they can begin to get your blood sugar down.
On the other end of the spectrum, too much insulin can throw things out of whack, too—if too much insulin is given for the amount of carbohydrate consumed or the exercise done, then a person’s blood sugar will drop. Especially in type 1 diabetes, low blood glucose can quickly go from treatable to requiring medical assistance: loss of consciousness or seizures can occur, requiring a glucagon injection, and sometimes, intravenous glucose depending on how low glucose has gone.
Both very high and very low glucose levels can be medical emergencies once certain thresholds are met. People with diabetes should have a plan for both extreme hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia/DKA.
If you use an insulin pump to manage your type 1 diabetes, you should wear a medical ID bracelet reading “Type 1 Diabetes – Insulin Dependent. On Insulin Pump.” In the event your pump is lost or disconnected in an emergency, this ensures medical professionals know that you are without insulin, and to provide insulin and monitor your blood sugar carefully. In all cases, people with T1D should wear diabetes medical ID jewelry at all times.