Newly diagnosed: things to help

Managing diabetes can be a challenge at times, but you can still do the things you enjoy. This guide should help you get started.

How to check your blood glucose levels

Media last reviewed: 27/04/2018

Media review due: 27/04/2021

Checking your blood glucose is quick and easy, although it can be uncomfortable at first.

You should have been given:

  • a blood glucose meter
  • small needles (called lancets)
  • a plastic pen to hold the needles
  • test strips

To check your blood glucose:

  1. wash your hands
  2. insert a test strip into the blood glucose meter
  3. attach a needle to the pen – use a fresh needle every time
  4. place the pen to the side of your finger (it's less painful)
  5. press the button on the pen to push the needle in
  6. gently squeeze your finger until you have a drop of blood
  7. hold your finger so the blood touches the top of the test strip
  8. read the numbers on the screen of your meter
When to check blood glucose levels

Try to check your blood glucose:

  • before meals
  • 2 to 3 hours after meals
  • before, during (take a break) and after exercise
  • before bed

This helps you understand your blood glucose levels and how they're affected by meals and exercise. It should help you have more stable blood glucose levels.

Blood glucose: the numbers

Your diabetes team should have discussed with you the blood glucose levels to aim for.

There's a range of ideal glucose levels that's used as a guide. Don't worry if your numbers are different. Aim for the levels agreed with your team.

The ideal range for blood glucose levels are:

  • before meals: 4 to 7mmol/L
  • 2 hours after meals: 8 to 9mmol/L
  • at bedtime: 6 to 10mmol/L

Your blood glucose levels can be affected by all sorts of things, including:

  • stress
  • illness or infection
  • not being active, or more active than usual
  • pain
  • periods
  • drinking alcohol

Learn more about your blood glucose numbers on the JDRF website.

How to inject insulin

Media last reviewed: 27/04/2018

Media review due: 27/04/2021

Injecting insulin doesn't usually hurt – the needles are very small.

You should have been given:

  • an insulin pen
  • needles

Where to inject:

  • your thighs
  • your tummy
  • your buttocks

How to inject:

  1. make sure your hands and the area you're injecting are clean
  2. attach the needle to the pen – insert an insulin cartridge if it's a reusable pen
  3. set the correct dose
  4. squirt 2 units of insulin into the air to make sure there are no air bubbles
  5. set the correct dose
  6. put the needle into your skin quickly, at least an inch from where you last injected
  7. inject the insulin by pressing the button down, and count to 10 before removing the needle

Learn more about insulin on the Diabetes UK website.

Recognising and treating hypoglycaemia

Hypoglycaemia (a hypo) happens when your blood glucose level is too low, usually below 4mmol/L.

This can happen when you:

  • delay meals
  • haven't had enough carbohydrate in your last meal
  • do lots of exercise without having the right amount of carbohydrate or reducing your insulin dose
  • take too much insulin
  • drink alcohol on an empty stomach

Important

Hypos come on fast. Be aware of the signs of a hypo so you can treat it quickly.

The most common signs are:

  • sweating
  • being anxious or irritable
  • feeling hungry
  • difficulty concentrating
  • blurred sight
  • trembling and feeling shaky

Treating a hypo

You need to treat a hypo quickly, before it gets worse.

Eat or drink something sugary like:

  • 3 dextrose or glucose sweets
  • 5 small sweets, like jelly babies
  • 1 glass of non-diet sugary drink (a mini can of cola is ideal)
  • 1 glass of fruit juice

Try not to eat:

  • sugary foods that contain fat like chocolate or cake – they don't work as well
  • too much – or your glucose levels will go too high

Check your blood glucose after 10 minutes. If it's still low, eat something sugary again.

You may still have hypo symptoms as your blood glucose levels rise, so check your blood glucose rather than going by how you feel.

Important

It's important your family and friends know what to do if you have a hypo and you can't help yourself.

They should give you an injection of glucagon or call 999 if you're not responding to them.

Check you're safe to drive

Legally, if you have diabetes and you drive, you need to:

  • check your blood glucose no longer than 2 hours before driving
  • check your blood glucose every 2 hours if you're on a long journey
  • travel with sugary snacks and snacks with long-lasting carbs, like a cereal bar or banana

If you feel your levels are low:

  1. stop the car when it's safe
  2. remove the keys from the ignition
  3. get out of the driver's seat
  4. check your blood glucose and treat your hypo
  5. don't drive for 45 minutes from when you feel normal again

Important

You need to let DVLA know you have diabetes. This will not stop you driving – they just need to know you're on insulin.

Diabetes UK has more about driving with type 1 diabetes.

Check-ups and appointments

You should expect regular appointments after you have been diagnosed. If you have any concerns about your diabetes, contact your diabetes team.

Every 6 months (more often when newly diagnosed)

Diabetes check-up

This is a meeting with your care team to see how you're getting on and check:

  • your blood glucose levels for the past 8 to 12 weeks (HbA1c test)
  • for fat in your blood (cholesterol)
  • your kidneys are working OK (kidney function)
  • for protein in your pee (urinary albumin)
  • your weight
  • your blood pressure

This includes blood and urine tests. It's also a chance for you to look at your meter readings together.

Once a year

Eye screening

You'll be invited for eye screening. A photo is taken of the back of your eye. This checks for any changes in your eyes caused by diabetes.

It's different from a sight test and doesn't check if you need glasses.

This should be arranged by your care team. Ask if you haven't had an appointment.

Foot check-up

A nurse or a foot specialist checks your feet for numbness, corns, ulcers and infections.

Speak to your team if your feet haven't been checked.

Find out more about avoiding complications

Useful websites for type 1 diabetes

T1 Resources is a selection of articles and websites reviewed and recommended by diabetes healthcare professionals and people with type 1 diabetes.

JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) is a type 1 diabetes charity. The information and support is for people with type 1 diabetes.

DigiBete is aimed people under 18, their parents and carers. It helps young people and families manage type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes UK is a charity giving information and support for all types of diabetes.

Try these online courses:

Type 1 diabetes course BERTIE Online created by the Royal Bournemouth Hospital.

The Diabetes UK Learning Zone.

Page last reviewed: 14/05/2018
Next review due: 14/05/2020