UK Head of External Affairs, JDRF (type 1 diabetes charity)
It’s known that the condition has a genetic basis. But there’s no known way to avoid it.
Serious and potentially life-threatening, type 1 diabetes requires those diagnosed with it to inject insulin every day to stay alive. It affects 400,000 people in the UK. Many are diagnosed in childhood and incidence rates have been climbing fastest in infants.
Learning to manage the condition
It’s a challenging and complex condition to live with, requiring multiple daily blood glucose checks to know what dose of insulin is needed. A child diagnosed with type 1 at the age of five faces up to 19,000 insulin injections and 50,000 finger-prick blood tests, day and night, by the time they’re 18.
Yet when people are given the right tools to manage the condition, it doesn’t have to hold them back.
Theresa May was diagnosed with the condition before becoming Prime Minister. Henry Slade was diagnosed with the condition long before winning the Six Nations rugby tournament with England.
A child diagnosed with type 1 at the age of five faces up to 19,000 insulin injections and 50,000 finger-prick blood tests, day and night, by the time they’re 18.
Technology can provide support
The right tools to manage the condition include wearable medical technology. Multiple daily insulin injections can be replaced by wearable insulin pumps. Multiple finger-prick blood glucose tests can be replaced by less invasive monitoring technologies. NHS access to such devices is currently too low and often depends on a postcode lottery of local area provision.
But at the type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, we are pushing for and winning greater access to such technologies for people with the condition. Our research programme is also focused on finding new treatments and an eventual cure. Ways to treat the condition, including these newer technologies, have progressed hugely in the last five years alone.
The centenary of insulin discovery
This World Diabetes Day (November 14th) will see the type 1 diabetes community begin to mark the 100-year anniversary of the discovery of insulin, which falls next year. It was one of the greatest moments in medical research history. But because using insulin to manage type 1 diabetes isn’t easy, the discovery alone is not enough. The community knows that together, it will find the next big research breakthrough, and together it will find the cure.