How long can a type 1 go without insulin

Hey folks, I was actually just wondering.

How long can a type 1 diabetic go without any insulin at all?

I got diagnosed like 6 weeks ago, and have been taking my insulin ever day since then.

But I been a little depressed lately, and just haven't taken any insulin at all today.

And this got me wondering, how long could one last without insulin??

I know before I was diagnosed, I think I was diabetic for a while, until I eventually went into ketoacidosis and found out I'm a type 1. but does that mean before I DKAed my pancreas was dying?? and it finally quit on me when I went to the hospital. or was it straight up dead a while ago, and I just went into DKA??

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Hey Johnny I was Diagnosed in March of this year T1 in honeymoon stage ( pancreas still making isulin) ,I was taking shots but now on the pump. They told me that the longest I can go with out insulin is two hours.

Good luck welcome to the family


If you don’t eat anything and only drink water you might make it a week but that would about it. If you eat anything a couple days and you will be out cold.

answer for #1 The dr.s told me I was getting sick for a couple of years. You start going into DKA when you have less than 10% of your beta cells. Please start your insulin, at least test your blood sugar a lot. Mind you they have shown that some type1’s keep making beta cells and they keep getting destroyed. I know for me that still once in a while I start going low and can stop my insulin for a couple of days before my bs starts to climb again!! I am a little different as I was dx’ed 2 years ago at age 52.

It took me about 32 hours to go into and through DKA and into a Coma. Bad way to go. I forgot my Insilin except I had basal in me from the night before.

I was diagnosed as an adult too. And I was crushed by the diagnosis. I still produced some insulin for more than a year and am now on a pump. It’s easy to say not to get overwhelmed because it can be really difficult to adjust. Even now I’m sometimes momentarily overcome with all the issues of living with diabetes.
BUT I’ve found that my blood sugar is normally really high when I start to feel down. Test it out and see what your BG readings are when you’re not feeling yourself. Hang in there; take care of yourself.

Johnny…Please dont go without your insulins…you dont want to find out what could happen to you. You are worth taking care of yourself and LIVING!!! You live near me…can I help in anyway? Robyn

I think it depends on the person. I’m fairly sure I started getting sick about 2 years before I was diagnosed. During that time I was napping when I wasn’t working or in school, had terrible heartburn all the time, and drank probably 3 gallons of water a day. My bg was 40 mmol when I checked into the hospital, but wasn’t feeling sick because my body had slowly adjusted. Now, If I’m above 15 I can barely stay awake. Also, if I stopped taking my basel I would probably shoot up to 20 over night. So I must have had some working cells left back then.
So, you might be able to barely survive for a short period or for awhile depending on what your pancreas is doing.

Honestly, as someone who has never been in DKA, I imagine that it takes quite a long time to GET to that point… it can begin to happen within a matter of hours, but the full effect would probably take much longer than that.

It’s going to vary for everyone, based on how much residual beta cell function you have. Some people probably have enough that it would really take a lot of things going wrong to send them into DKA, while others may be much more sensitive to it.

I went about two months without insulin after the birth of my first child (after using insulin for almost 6 months) - mostly due to being mismanaged by medical “professionals” following his birth. No one knew I was a T1 and that I needed insulin… so of course they didn’t tell me to take it, in fact everyone told me to stop testing entirely after my pregnancy, since my #'s had returned to “normal” at the hospital (which happened with my next two kids as well, I needed next to no insulin right after they were born, but it absolutely didn’t mean that I was “cured”). I failed the follow-up GTT, which is how they knew I was still diabetic. It took another several months of dealing with an idiot of a doctor (convinced I was T2 and did not “need” insulin) to finally get a T1 diagnosis (based on antibody testing) and know for certain that I needed insulin, but I had been self-medicating for a while before that.

I will admit though, that there have been MANY days in the past 10 years where I’ve had a “I hate everything” day and I haven’t taken much of any bolus insulin. In those cases I’ve always had basal insulin on board, and I end up playign “catch up” at the end of the day and correcting the high (mostly so I’m not up all night peeing). I’m not suggesting that doing that is a good idea, but I just wanted to let you know that you are NOT alone, and it’s something that we all deal with at some point.

You might consider going to a counselor to work out why you feel the way you do - you might find that you feel a lot better for it. If there is a certain aspect about your D management that you can change, that would make a difference for you, that is also something you can bring up with your doctors.

I was also diagnosed as a young adult, and I honestly think that being diagnosed at that age is a little harder than any other - you’re still figuring out who you are and what you want out of life, and you are suddenly thrown a giant curve ball, and it’s not fair… not that it’s fair at any other age, but I do think it’s probably easier to adapt if you are younger, or just a bit older. You WILL get through this though… just remember that you’re not alone, and if the rest of us could do it, you can too :slight_smile:

I should add, when I described this incident, I had already been a Diabetic for 16 years.

My endo said I probably had high BG for 4-5 years before crashing & burning with DKA & officially being diagnosed T1.

The more consistently high we are, the more beta cells are burned out, aside from the other damage that can occur. So, not good to skip insulin.

very true

Do not stop taking your insulin. I did for almost a year as I didn’t have insurance at the time. I lost a lot of weight, my sugar levels were constantly in the 300-500 range. My A1C was above 13%, etc. I am now on Lisinopril for my kidneys, and back on track with the insulin. I also gained 30 pounds in a year. My A1C is still high even though I’m taking insulin every day. I’m at 11% right now and they wont let me go on the pump.

So lesson is, dont skip a dose

There is can and then there is should. How long can you go without drink any water? About thirty days. How long should you go without drinking water, perhaps a day. Before insulin was developed, Elliott Joslin was able to keep his patients alive up to 3-4 years using a special starvation diet. But these patients suffered, and although they “lived” they did not have much of a quality of life.

It is perfectly understandable to be depressed. But you need to treat your insulin as something automatic. Don’t mess with your insulin, you will be just hurting yourself in hidden ways. You need to look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are going to wake up one morning, the fog of depression will have lifted and you are going to want to enjoy life and be happy.

We all understand the depression that is common with diabetes. For some reason the docs don’t address this (the mental aspect of diabetes) from the start. They talk about medications, excersice, nutrition…but they don’t share that it is often difficult to cope with or teach us ways to cope.

Wouldn’t it be better if they were upbeat and told you how to manage it but also let you know it can be overwhelming. That way when we hit those rough spots we won’t feel so abnormal and alone.

My advice…deal with the depression. Seek help if you think you need to or do a few things on your own to address it. Find another way to deal with it that is productive…and skipping insulin just doesn’t fit in that category.

Hang in there and let us know how you are doing. We understand.

Not completely positive but I think you have 48 hours if on the pump before you would be in very bad shape; if you have Lantus you could probably add one more day to that. Not sure how long it would take to actually die. Information would be good to know for natural disasters and emergencies… how long you could manage without insulin.

I have wondered this as well, in cases of natural disasters, etc. I live in an earthquake risk zone and this city has a lot of bridges, plus I rely on public transportation, so I worry about being trapped without insulin if there was ever a big earthquake. The one or two times I have gotten little or no insulin from my pump for 5-6 hours due to a cracked cartridge or bad site my blood sugars went extremely high (high 20s to low 30s mmol/L) and I had large ketones and felt pretty terrible, even sometimes without eating. So I can imagine a Type 1 who produces no insulin and is on a pump would be in very rough shape come 48 or even 24 hours with no insulin. Those who are newly diagnosed or are LADA might have a little more time. I always carry a backup insulin pen so have about 300 extra units on me at all times, which would at least last me a few days (depending on how much I ate, stress, etc.).

I don’t live in an earthquake zone, but I’m terrified of this type of situation:) If I’m traveling overnight I almost always have two bottles of humalog and one bottle of lantus in addition to what’s in my pump, lol. It’s probably overkill but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

So far (knock on wood) I’ve only had one incident where I forgot to put my pump back on after a shower. It was about two hours later when my bg was already 400. It came down quickly with only a small amount of insulin (much less than my usual sensitivity factor) but I felt like crap. I honestly don’t know how long I’d last, and hope never to find out!!!

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Hiyaaa Hun,

I think its 3 months before dka kicks in - you will lose weight & go back to how crap you felt before you were diagnosed its very dangerous tho as you could slip into a coma and Die, I know its ridiculously hard sometimes and it makes u feel crappy I am also a type 1 was diagnosed after an accident ( trapped my finger in a door and severed the end off , had it plastic surgery’ed back on and lost lots of weight & then was sleeping all the time day & night and was always very thirsty… Had a test and found out I was Type 1 )… I actually felt like my life was over I thought I was damaged goods.
But you have just got to think… of the positives ok your type 1 but they caught it early if you keep injecting you will proberly live a long and happy life … I hope you have a good support network of friends … People who know what im going through & Its not worth feeling like crap… So please dont give up xx

Dude, DO NOT skip your insulin. Your body needs insulin to survive. You’re literally starving every cell in your body when you skip your shots. And the damage you’re doing is serious (kidneys, eyes, nerves, etc). This is NOTHING to mess around with. Now go shoot up :wink: