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The honeymoon phase of type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes can be easier to manage in the first few months after diagnosis, which is known as the honeymoon phase or period.
Content last reviewed and updated: 14.08.2023
A section of pancreas being attacked by immune cells

A section of a pancreas being attacked by immune cells. The beta cells are still able to produce some insulin, which is labelled brown in this image.

What is the honeymoon period in type 1?

Type 1 diabetes happens when the immune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. This is a slow process, meaning people with type 1 can still have some functioning beta cells up to a year after their diagnosis. These surviving beta cells continue to function as normal, which can make type 1 easier to manage at first. You may need less insulin during this time and experience more stable blood glucose levels.

Who experiences a honeymoon phase?

Not everyone with type 1 will have a honeymoon period. It only happens just after you’ve been diagnosed with type 1. People with a bigger pancreas are more likely to experience a honeymoon phase because the same percentage destruction leaves more individual beta cells than someone with a smaller pancreas. Specifically, this means people diagnosed when they are older than six years of age.

How long does the honeymoon period last?

The honeymoon period lasts for different lengths of time in different people, but it is always temporary. It most commonly lasts between a few months and a year, but some people can experience it for a few years.

How can I extend my honeymoon phase?

Some research studies have found that taking vitamin D3 and trying to keep your glucose levels as stable as possible can help prolong your honeymoon period. If you have been recently diagnosed with type 1, you may be able to join a clinical trial that aims to extend the honeymoon period. Enter your details in our clinical trial finder tool to find a trial appropriate for you.

Research to protect remaining beta cells

Several JDRF-funded research projects have shown promise in preserving the function of the remaining beta cells in people with type 1. Verapamil is an immune therapy, which our researchers found slowed the rate that beta cells are destroyed in young people newly diagnosed with type 1 a year after their diagnosis. You can read more about this research in our news story.

How many beta cells do we need?

60-80% – The percentage of beta cells your immune system has destroyed by the time you’re diagnosed with type 1.

30-40% – The amount of beta cells you can have without needing insulin treatment.

~5% – Roughly the amount of remaining beta cells that people in the honeymoon period have.

What causes the honeymoon phase?

Type 1 diabetes develops over a long period of time, with the immune attack often starting years or decades before someone is diagnosed with type 1. We know more about this thanks to the introduction of screening projects to find people in the earliest stages of developing type 1, before symptoms develop. People in the honeymoon phase are earlier in their type 1 diabetes development than others.

Find out more about the stages of type 1 diabetes on our screening for type 1 diabetes page.

What happens when the honeymoon period ends?

Eventually the immune attack will destroy most of your beta cells. When this happens, you may need to start taking more insulin. You may also find it more difficult to manage your blood glucose levels. If you are finding this harder, speak to your diabetes team as they may have suggestions to make managing your type 1 easier.

Head to the managing type 1 diabetes section for more information.

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