Type 1 Diabetes and UTIs


It’s my second trip to the hospital in a month. I’ve already missed five days of work. I’ve been poked and prodded, I have no good veins left. I’m already covered in bruises from last time and I just don’t want to be here again. I’m putting on a brave face, but everything inside me is telling me to scream at the top of my lungs. I’m doubled over with back pain, a migraine, a horrible fever, tachycardia and to top it off I have constant low blood sugar.

“You again,” says the emergency department doctor. We both know the drill—fluids, intravenous antibiotics and a nice four-night stay in the Acute Ward.

I would consider myself a healthy person. I eat a balanced diet, I walk everywhere and my blood sugar levels are even “better than a person not living with type 1 diabetes” (according to my endocrinologist). I’m hygienic and I had never had a urinary tract infection (UTI) up until this moment. So, to be honest, I couldn’t tell you how I got here.

While a UTI might typically be something that is easily treated, it can become dangerous for someone with type 1 diabetes. It can spread easily through your blood and your kidneys can become damaged. Our bodies can’t fight infections as well as they should, so it’s important to know the signs and make sure you advocate for your own body.

Everyone’s bodies are different, even amongst the type 1 community. When I had the initial infection my blood sugars were generally stable, so long as I ate. But as soon as the infection spread and I incorporated antibiotics, a small appetite and my normal insulin dosage, my blood sugars went spiraling down. I’d wake up sitting at 2.3, sometimes even 1.8, in the middle of the night. I’d be tired and grumpy and the last thing I want to do is down some Carbotest (awful stuff, 0/10) and a cheese sandwich at 2 a.m. Eventually I was taken off insulin for a few days with monitoring (don’t do this without monitoring!) until my blood sugars began to rise again.

Maybe worse than that is the mental toll this has. I’m an employee, a daughter and a best friend. I’m a people pleaser, and I hate letting people down. Unfortunately, you can’t help but feel weak to those around you when you’re in hospital. People are counting on you. But sometimes you need to start counting on others, so you can get better. Self-care is so important, especially in situations where you feel out of control. I’m so lucky to have a boss that’s understanding with a workplace that cares and friends and family that would jump through hoops to make me feel better. Lean on them; don’t be afraid to be weak. In the long run, it’s going to help with a speedier recovery. These are important things to remember!

Know the signs of a UTI—

    • A strong, persistent urge to urinate.
    • A burning sensation when urinating.
    • Passing frequent, small amounts of urine.
    • Urine that appears cloudy.

Catch it early

  • Catch the infection before it’s too late; even if you’re feeling slightly off, head to your GP straight away.

Communicate with your doctor

  • Tell your doctor all symptoms, even if the details aren’t glamorous.
  • Try to explain how you manage your diabetes as well as you can to the doctor. If they have prescribed something that doesn’t seem right (i.e. your insulin dosage), make sure you communicate your concerns to them.

Use probiotics

  • If you do go on antibiotics, make sure you also get some probiotics to balance out the good and bad bacteria.

Try cranberries

  • If you’re prone to UTIs buy some cranberry tablets (the most potent version), and perhaps look at some high strength (sugar-free) cranberry juice. (Do not buy the concentrate version of juice as it does not have enough of the actually cranberry in it.)

Test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

  • Get an STI/STD test and if you’re a girl, maybe it’s time for a pap smear too.

Go with your gut

  • If something doesn’t feel right, it generally isn’t.

Accept help

  • You don’t have to do it on your own. Lean on your friends and family; they want to help.

Learn more about Type 1 in your Daily Life.

WRITTEN BY Georgina Cunningham, POSTED 09/27/17, UPDATED 10/17/22

Georgina Cunningham works in film post-production in the south of Australia. She was diagnosed in December 2015, two days before Christmas. She enjoys film, wine and cheese. She is an advocate for type 1 diabetes (T1D) rights, including access to supplies and healthcare for all.