What does Diabetes Awareness Month mean to me? Honestly, a lot. Too much to really put into words. On October 6, 2008, my son, Lenny, who was 3 ½ years old at the time, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. That day, and the many weeks that followed, was an emotional roller coaster for our entire family. As time went on, we learned how to accept and manage his condition, and look to the future.
Diabetes Awareness Month, to me, means helping others learn more about Diabetes, the differences between Type 1 and Type 2, how serious it can be, sharing the ups and downs of the disease with others, and embracing those you love with and without diabetes. Living life to its fullest.
What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2?
Type 1 Diabetes:
In short, Type 1 Diabetes is an auto-immune disease. It occurs when the pancreas can no longer produce insulin. Insulin acts as a “key” to open your body’s cells to allow glucose to enter. When the pancreas is no longer able to produce insulin, the glucose you eat from foods and drinks can no longer be turned into energy the body can use. Over time, your body will start to give you “warning signals” that something is wrong.
Type 2 Diabetes:
With Type 2 Diabetes, your pancreas is able to produce some of it’s own insulin, however it may not be enough. Remember when I said that insulin acts as a “key” to open your body’s cells? Well, sometimes, if that “key” tries to open the body’s cells, but it doesn’t work, your body is unable to use the glucose you eat and drink, also leading to Type 2 Diabetes.
What causes Type 1 & Type 2 Diabetes?
The cause of Type 1 Diabetes is still unknown. Type 2 Diabetes is often times caused by living a sedentary lifestyle and being over-weight.
What are these “warning signals” you mentioned?
As stated on the Mayo Clinic website (www.mayoclinic.com) signs of Type 1 Diabetes include:
Increased thirst and frequent urination.
Weight loss (often sudden)
If you, your child, or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, consult with a doctor immediately.
What are some common misconceptions about Type 1 Diabetes?
Some common misconceptions about Type 1 Diabetes are:
Type 1 Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar.
This statement is false. Type 1 Diabetes is NOT caused by eating too much sugar. It is caused by the person’s pancreas’ inability to produce insulin; an auto-immune disease. While it is advised to everyone to eat high sugar foods in moderation, it is not the cause of Type 1 Diabetes.
People with Type 1 Diabetes just have to watch what they eat, exercise, and take a pill every day. This statement is also false. People with Type 1 Diabetes are insulin dependant, meaning they must receive multiple insulin injections (often times receiving up to 5-6+ shots a day) or continuous insulin (via an insulin pump) to stay alive. They must also monitor their blood sugars closely, often times pricking their fingers up to 10+ times a day. Furthermore, people with Type 1 Diabetes can still eat anything they want, including things with sugar (I.e. cakes, pies, cookies, etc), they just need to give themselves enough insulin to cover the carbohydrates in those foods and monitor their blood sugars closely in case of a severe hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic episode occurs. For optimal health, it is advised to eat these things in moderation (but that should be done by everyone, not only people with diabetes), as well as exercise and monitor their blood sugars as recommended by their endocrinologist.
Is there a cure?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Type 1 Diabetes. Many people believe, however, that people with Type 2 can cure their condition by losing weight and living a more active lifestyle.
What can I expect if my child is diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes?
When you take your child to the pediatrician for concerns of Type 1 Diabetes, they will run some tests. For my son, they checked his blood sugar right in the office, and asked for a urine sample. Normal blood sugar range is 70-120; this range is the same for both children and adults. If the pediatrician believes your child has Type 1 Diabetes, you and your child will be sent to the hospital to stay for a few days while the doctors and endocrinologists there work to bring your child’s blood sugars back in range. This stay could be as short as 3 days, but sometimes, depending on how severe the case is, may be longer. While in the hospital, you will learn all about Type 1 Diabetes, how to take care of your child when you both return home, how to administer insulin shots, learn about the glucogon emergency kit, and so much more. By the end of your visit, you may feel overwhelmed with information. Just take a deep breath and take it a day at a time. Remember, you are still learning all about it and no one expects you to get it down to a science by the time you leave the hospital!
How serious is diabetes?
Diabetes is very serious. Potentially life threatening in fact! If managed poorly, potential risks include:
Loss of limbs
Loss of sight
Nerve damage (neuropathy)
Heart and blood vessel disease
Kidney damage (nephropathy)
If a hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) reaction is left untreated, the person with diabetes could have a diabetic seizure, go into a coma, or even die.
If a hyperglycemic (high blood sugar) reaction is left untreated, the person with diabetes could develop Ketoacidosis (DKA), go into a coma, or even die.
Diabetes is a potentially life threatening disease, and should be treated as such.
*Facts about Diabetes
~Almost 24 million Americans are living with diabetes.
~Diabetes affects approximately 180 million people worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates the number of people living with diabetes will more than double by the year 2030.
~Diabetes takes more lives than AIDS and breast cancer combined--claiming 1 American life every 3 minutes.
~It is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart failure and stroke.
~Diabetes is expensive! Americans spend approximately $218 billion on diabetic costs.
*These facts found on the Diabetes Research Institute website: www.diabetesresearch.org
A personal note:
As a mother of a young child with Type 1 Diabetes, I would like nothing more than to help rid the world of this disease. Diabetes affects the whole family. The child has to suffer with multiple injections daily, the feelings of high and low blood sugars as they happen, the emotional effects of having the disease and feeling “different” than their peers, learning how to take care of their diabetes by themselves, learning how to count carbohydrates, and so much more. The parents and other siblings are in a constant state of worry. We worry about how the child is doing when they are in school, at grandma’s, or at a friends. We worry overnight if the child’s blood sugars are high or low. Many parents, including myself, lose a lot of sleep or have broken sleep patterns because they are up checking the child’s blood sugars throughout the night, administering insulin for high blood sugars, and waking the child up to give them a fast acting carbohydrate (like juice or glucose tabs) for low blood sugars. When they have a low blood sugar, especially at night when symptoms of low blood sugars can be hard to catch, we worry about if we will catch a low blood sugar in time, or if our child will still be here with us the next day. Diabetes is very hard to manage. Although some parents, children, and adults, may make it look easy to do, it is not. However, each and every child and adult affected with the disease has learned how to manage it, and learned to live life to it’s absolute fullest, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.
I am a happily married mother with two wonderful children. Our son, Lenny, is 5 years old. Our daughter, Mackenzie, is 4 years old. Lenny was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the young age of 3 ½ years old. It has been quite a roller coaster ride since his diagnosis, but the one thing I have learned since then is to live your life to the fullest and don’t take things for granted, because you never know what tomorrow will bring. Lenny, and all children with Type 1 Diabetes, are very brave children having to go through what they do each and every day. They are true Hero’s! Our family has decided to “Be the Hero” and become volunteer Diabetes Diplomats with the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation.
Will you help us in the fight against diabetes and find a cure?
Team Lenny’s Diabetes Diplomat Fundraiser Page: http://diabetesdiplomats.kintera.org/teamlenny
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