November is National Diabetes Awareness month and November 14 is World Diabetes Day. Diabetes education is really important to me, so I’m going to step away from discussing writing today and discuss diabetes education, something that’s very important to me.
In 2013 there were 387 million people with diabetes worldwide, and that number is growing every day. The one thing you can count on to be true in the news is that diabetes is an epidemic. If you do not have diabetes, you probably know at least one person who does.
Unfortunately, when you hear about diabetes in the news they generally only talk about type 2 diabetes, unless you hear them follow-up with discussing a cure. The cure usually only refers to type 1 diabetes. It would be great to have more education for all types of diabetes as well as a cure for everyone.
The reality is, so many people do not even understand the difference between the two. Also there are a lot of misunderstandings about both types. Diabetes is a very complicated disease and the best way to understand them is through proper education.
Type 1 Diabetes
It’s possible you may have never have heard of type 1 diabetes, and that could be because it used to be called juvenile diabetes. This was because people thought only children could contract it. This isn’t true. Even elder adults can be diagnosed with type 1, and it’s actually likely that they will be misdiagnosed with type 2.
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune deficiency where the immune system attacks the pancreas. It is diagnosis by blood tests to identify the proper antibodies.
LADA Diabetes (Or Type 1.5)
LADA is similar to type 1 because it is also an auto-immune deficiency. The difference is, LADA is latent and slow to onset where type 1 can seem to happen over night. Although treatment of LADA is similar to type 1, being able to catch the onset in early stages could be beneficial to treatment.
Type 2 Diabetes
When it comes to type 2 diabetes, the majority of people are considered to be obese. Obesity is a contributing environmental factor to type 2, however; unlike type 1 the actual cause of the diabetes is far more complicated. It is also possible to be thin and be diagnosed as type 2.
In type 2 there are a combination of factors that contribute to high blood glucose.
- Insulin Resistance: When your red blood cells no longer respond to the insulin your body produces.
- Your liver produces too much glucose: Our bodies are equiped to survive when food is scarce. Our livers will produce insulin when we skip meals. Sometimes a person’s liver doesn’t know when to shut off, flooding the blood stream with glucose.
- Exhausted pancreas: After years of producing excess insulin to combat high glucose levels, your pancreas can start to wear out.
Determining which reason is the cause of your diabetes is like solving a mystery. It can even be a combination of factors. Weight loss, healthy diet, regular exercise, and medications can all help in lowering blood glucose.
I think one main thing to mention here is that people with type 2 diabetes often need to go on insulin. A lot of people are afraid of insulin and many doctors use it as a threat.
“If you don’t do better, we’re going to put you on insulin!” This was a phrase my father faced every time he went to the doctor.
It’s the wrong approach to make people feel like failures. Diabetes is a progressive illness. Even if you do a perfect job with diet and exercise, it’s very likely you will require insulin. Insulin can save your life. High blood glucose tears up your body from the inside out. It destroys your veins, nerves, eyes, kidneys, teeth, and heart. Having sugar in your blood is like having daggers in your blood.
Prediabetes is a phase of type 2 before diagnosis. It’s a stage in which a person is at higher risk of developing diabetes but can still make changes to prevent the diagnosis. I also think it’s one of the most underestimated disease states and many people do not take it seriously. People with prediabetes often vehemently and defensively declare “I don’t have diabetes!” While this is technically true in terms of medical billing, it’s actually very misleading in terms of actual physiology.
Prediabetes, like diabetes, is diagnosed with blood tests. One test is called the hemoglobin A1c and is an average result of blood glucose over the span of three months. The lowest A1c for prediabetes is 5.7% and the average blood glucose is approximately 117. However, the highest A1c for prediabetes is 6.4% and the average blood glucose is around 137. Two blood draws with glucose levels of 126 or higher is considered diagnose as diabetes.. Therefore, prediabetes isn’t necessarily “borderline” at all. It’s just a term for medical billing.
I personally believe diabetes should be diagnosed in a way similar to cancer. Prediabetes is more like stage one. Once your A1c is above 7% you are in stage two, and if you require insulin it becomes stage three. I think that this would be easier for people to understand and help people take it seriously.
Sometimes during pregnancy women develop diabetes or prediabetes, then once the baby is born they return to a non-diabetic state.Some women require insulin during this time as well. When your pregnant with diabetes it can be worrisome, because your blood glucose also will effect your baby. Getting proper support and education for the safety of both mother and child. Having gestational diabetes will also increase a woman’s chance of being diagnosed with diabetes in the future.
Even if you don’t think you have diabetes get tested anyway. Even if you haven’t heard of diabetes in your family, have your doctor draw a hemoglobin A1c and blood glucose level at your next physical. Diabetes is a tricky illness. You feel bad for so long you don’t even know you feel bad. If you have any of the following symptoms get into your doctor right away:
- Excessive Thirst
- Excessive Urination
- Excessive Hunger
- Blurry Vision
- Rapid, Unexpected Weight Loss
- Tingling, pain, or numbness in your hands and feet
If you have diabetes and you’re struggling for control, then try to find a Certified Diabetes Educator in your area. Having a good diabetes educator that you can relate to is like having a cheerleader on the sidelines. They can help you understand your blood glucose levels, how to properly count carbohydrates, and assist you in making the lifestyle changes you need. You don’t have to do this alone!
And if you know someone with diabetes, give them a hug and let them know you’re on there side.