What is diabetes?
There are several main kinds of diabetes.
Here is what you need to know:
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is the kind children are usually diagnosed with, though adults can be diagnosed with it, too. You can get type 1 diabetes at anytime. Type 1 diabetes is a very serious chronic illness that occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which means that a person’s immune system has turned on the body and will never again allow the pancreas to do its job and create the absolutely vital hormone insulin.
Insulin allows the body to use the food we eat. Without insulin, a person will starve to death, no matter how much food they eat, because the body cannot bring energy from the food into any of a person’s cells, including those of vital organs or muscles. In order for the diabetic to live, they need to take insulin by injections, or by an insulin pump. The diabetic must also monitor how much sugar is in their blood stream several times a day, ten to twelve times is best, with a glucose meter.
In a very real way, the person must take over the job their pancreas used to do. Can you imagine having to take over the job of one of your internal organs - especially one that has to do with eating food? Make no mistake, it’s not just hard - it’s full time job - 24 hours a day - with no breaks, no vacations, and no mercy.
Difficult doesn’t even begin to cover how tough it is no matter how old or young you are. If a diabetic is going to stay healthy, they must take care of diabetes and its symptoms twenty-four hours a day during every waking and resting moment. This includes: sleeping, waking, eating, exercising, working, studying, reading, playing, and even showering. If a person ignores their diabetes, or does not care properly for themselves, they face losing their eyesight, terrible infections, losing their limbs, losing the ability to feel (particularly in the hands and feet), coma, and death. Diabetics are also more prone to catching colds and general sicknesses. No matter how old the person is when diagnosed, type 1 diabetes is a life long illness with no cure.
If someone in your family has type 1 diabetes, you are at high risk for it, too. About 1 in every 400 people in the US are now living with type 1 diabetes. Some of the earliest signs of any type of diabetes are being really thirsty after meals, having to pee a lot, fruity smelling “diet” breathe, effortless weight loss, and feeling very tired all the time. If you have any of these signs, please go see your doctor and insist in having your blood sugar tested and don’t leave until the tests are scheduled. Diabetes doesn't go away and ignoring it will lead to a lot of unnecessary unpleasantness and early death.
I have had type 1 diabetes since I was 10 years old, and am now a 20 plus year veteran of the illness. It is a battle everyday, but one that I need to fight so I can live and be healthy. The part that frightens me the most is the threat of loosing my eyesight.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the kind of diabetes most commonly associated with people over 50, though many teenagers today are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 is not a death sentence without insulin. Type 2 diabetes is an chronic illness that can often be effectively managed with diet and exercise alone. Though, many do have to go on insulin shots at some point. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is still creating insulin, just not enough of it, or the insulin is not working quite right. Exercise helps the insulin be more efficient in getting glucose into the body’s cells, which is why exercise is so important for people with any kind of diabetes.
People of any weight from very thin to very overweight can develop type 2 diabetes. It’s a common misconception that type 2 diabetes is a condition that someone brings on themselves through bad lifestyle choices. That is simply not true. Any one can develop type 2 diabetes at any time. And let’s also talk about a common misconception that someone can have a “touch of the sugar”… that’s not true either - you either have diabetes of one type or another or you don’t have it. You can have pre-diabetes. Pre-diabetes is when the pancreas is struggling to keep you healthy. Sometimes you can help your pancreas work better and “relax” for a bit by making some good life style changes like exercising and eating dark leafy greens. And sometimes no matter what you do pre-diabetes evolves into either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetics are the ones who need to do their best to stay away from the sugar found in fruit and deserts because they no longer create enough insulin to process it, with out a lot of exercise. Because type 1 diabetics make no insulin at all, they actually have more freedom in the kinds of food they can eat, because they have to take insulin for pretty much everything they eat. With a good diet and exercise, and in many cases weight loss, the symptoms of type 2 diabetes will retreat, and be in essence, cured.
And if anyone in your family has any kind of diabetes take note and learn everything you can because there is a strong genetic component - which means the more people in your family who have any sort of diabetes - the more likely you are to get it, too. So learn everything you can! At best you’ll be able to help people you care about, and at worst you’ll be prepared for when diabetes knocks on your door.
Gestational diabetes is a temporary kind of diabetes that happens when a woman’s body is under the strain of pregnancy. Due to the demands of pregnancy, the woman’s body cannot make enough insulin to cover the needs of her body and the growing baby’s. Sometimes diet and exercise is enough, other times the the mother will have to take supplemental insulin therapy until the baby is born. Once the baby is born, the mother’s body is no longer under so much stress and her pancreas can once again make enough insulin for her needs. It is common for a woman who has had gestational diabetes to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
Wow! That’s a long explanation!
The three different kinds of diabetes are very different, and need to be considered as separate illnesses. Type 1 is by far, the most serious, because without insulin, the person goes into a coma after a few days and....dies. No insulin = very dead.
If you would like to learn more about diabetes, take a look at these links below.
• American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org.
• Joslin Diabetes Center at www.joslin.org.
I am simply sharing opinions, knowledge and personal experiences I have gained over the years. I am not a doctor, nurse or medical practitioner, of any kind. The above does not constitute as medical advice in any way, shape or form. If you have questions or concerns about diabetes, or other health issues, its care, and overall management, please consult your medical care team.