Tuesday 2 April 2013

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Day 2 Prompt: Introduce your condition(s) to other Health Activists. What are 5 things you want them to know about your condition/your activism? 

When people learn that my 12 year old son has type 1 diabetes, the usually make certain assumptions about that the disease is, or where he "got it" from. Sadly, misconceptions are rampant when it comes to type 1 and the volume of incorrect information floating around is abundant. Sometimes it seems easier to tell people what type diabetes IS NOT, rather than what it is. 

It is NOT:
  • caused by eating too much sugar, either as a child or adult, or by sugar at all
  • caused by any lack of care or neglect on the part of a parent or caregiver 
  • a casual disease that comes and goes. It is 24/7/365.
  • a result of being obese or overweight, nor does it have anything to do with weight at all
  • contagious, meaning you can't "catch" it from someone else
  • a disease with diet restrictions. My son can eat chocolate, sweets, starchy foods, and sugar, just like your child (though when eaten in excess it WILL cause cavities, and lead to obesity and other health issues, just like in your child). We just need to balance his carbohydrate intake with insulin.
  • curable.
Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas are destroyed, causing the body to stop producing insulin, and blood glucose levels to rise. Without insulin, the body cannot survive, so type 1 diabetes IS fatal if untreated. Fortunately, it is treatable with insulin, which can be delivered either via syringes or subcutaneously using an insulin pump. While insulin therapy is far from a cure for type 1 diabetes, it provides patients with a tool with which they can live a long and healthy life.

It is a disease that never sleeps. It IS manageable, but with vigilance and constant care. Blood glucose levels must be checked throughout the day and night, and insulin must be given multiple times per day to keep blood glucose levels within an ideal range. Variations in blood glucose levels throughout the day are to be expected, but readings outside of the target range (highs and lows) should be treated immediately. Food intake must be closely monitored (carbohydrate intake causes a rise in blood glucose), as do activities that burn carbohydrates, such as exercise. Other factors that can, and do, affect blood glucose, include temperature, stress, illness, and hormones.

There is no cure for type 1 diabetes, so utmost attention to diabetes management is critical and lifelong.

Ok, so that's a few more than 5 things. It is what it is.

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