Almost 4 years ago on February 2, my perfectly healthy 9 year old nephew was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Usually when people hear the words DIABETES, they assume it is caused by an over consumption of sugar, poor lifestyle choices or a genetic inheritance. What many don’t know is that there are two types of diabetes. Type 1 and Type 2, the latter being the more commonly diagnosed and preventable type with lifestyle changes (not to devalue it’s severity). On the other hand, Type 1 cannot be prevented and is often diagnosed during childhood.
Although many of the symptoms and the diagnosis of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are similar, they present in very different ways. Many people with type 2 diabetes won’t have symptoms for many years, developing slowly over time.
The symptoms of type 1 diabetes develop fast, typically over the course of several weeks and is most commonly diagnosed during childhood and adolescence. Though not as common, it is possible to get type 1 diabetes later in life.
Common Symptoms include but are not limited to:
* frequent urination
* feeling very thirsty and drinking a lot
* feeling very hungry
* feeling very fatigued
* blurry vision
* cuts or sores that don’t heal properly
* irritability and mood changes
* sudden loss of weight
My nephew had many of these in the weeks leading up to his diagnosis.
Neither type of diabetes can be described or understood in a one page summary. However, in honor of World Diabetes Day, here is a description of Type 1 diabetes in a nutshell given by my sister, and mother of our strong diabetes warrior nephew, Leonardo.
What is Type 1?
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, completely different from the more common reversible diabetes most of us are familiar with (aka type 2). Type 1 diabetes causes the body to reject the pancreas islets, and therefore they don’t work to produce any insulin to counteract carbohydrates consumed. Although insulin is the treatment, he and we as caregivers must “try to think like a pancreas.” We constantly monitor and adjust insulin delivery vs. carbohydrate consumption not only based on carbohydrates consumed, but adjust them with physical activity level, hormones, illness, and more, to prevent life threatening lows, while not allowing the blood sugar to get too high, for risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (coma from having too high blood sugar for too long), and long term complications. It is a second full time job essentially, that is 24 hours/day, 7 days/week, 365 days/year. And at this time there is no cure.
The worry of blood sugar going too low and never waking up again is the constant fear that diabetic families face, but we also worry when the blood sugar is too high, for increasing the risk of ketoacidosis (particularly increasingly susceptible when ill), and future complications (neuropathy, cardiovascular problems, kidney problems, vision loss, decreased blood circulation/wound healing possibly leading to amputations). These are the constant concerns with having a child with T1D. Last year when Leo was diagnosed with strep throat, that same day he developed large ketones and had to go to the emergency room to get IV fluids to assist with ridding the body of the ketones as to not fall into ketoacidosis.
We are so grateful for the great technological advances that we have including the pump (eliminating the need for giving an injection with every carbohydrate eaten), and the CGM (continuous glucose meter) that decreases the need for frequent finger sticks and alerts us to blood sugar trends. A new feature our pump has most recently developed, to suspend insulin delivery when the trend is predicted to go low according to the CGM, has been a blessing, decreasing the need to wake Leo up in the middle of the night or call him at school to eat to prevent a low.
While it is a disease we wouldn’t wish on anyone, the fact that we have so much new technology to ease the burden this day in age, and that the future is hopeful for a cure, we are grateful. Of course all of this technology comes at a pretty penny despite having decent insurance, but it is a priceless expense for an easier life with less burden.
For more information and to assist in making Type 1 Type none visit:
We will be walking as part of the JDRF One Walk, this March 2nd as team, “Leo’s Alligator Army!”