Looking back before I became the mom of a child with Type 1 diabetes, I thought all diabetics were created equal. Cut out the sugar and exercise and everything would be hunky-dory. Now that I am the mom of a diabetic, I know better.
Educating people about the differences in diabetes and the warning signs leading up to a diagnosis has become a priority for me. I was asked to write this blog post as part or an educational push being done throughout the Akron Children’s Hospital system in recognition of World Diabetes Day on Nov. 14.
Looking back to the months before my son’s diagnosis, all of the warning signs were there. I just didn’t know that, added up together, they pointed to diabetes. Increased thirst, increased urination, regression in potty training or supersaturated diapers (age appropriate), weight loss, loss of energy, nausea or vomiting and dizziness are all warning signs of diabetes.
If you notice these signs in yourself or someone you love, see your primary care physician for a quick and easy sugar check. Early diagnosis means less risk in serious health complications including death.
Before I was a “D” mom, I knew there were 2 forms of diabetes, but I thought if you had Type 1 you got diabetes as a kid and if you had Type 2 you got diabetes as an adult.
I had no idea that just because Type 1 and Type 2 seemed so similar they were actually completely different diseases. Both diseases have the same warning signs and affect how your body uses glucose (a sugar that all cells use for energy), but beyond that, it is comparing apples and oranges.
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease. A T1D’s immune cells have attacked and killed the cells that make insulin. Insulin is a hormone the body makes that allows cells to use glucose. Think of it as the key that unlocks a door to the cell to let glucose in.
A child with T1D is physically incapable of producing insulin and must inject insulin daily and before eating in order to live. Because EVERYTHING you eat will eventually be turned into glucose for the cells to use (I will spare you the biochemistry) no matter what a T1D eats, they will need to inject insulin in order to use the food as energy.
Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) is a metabolic disorder. A T2D is genetically predisposed to the disease. Lifestyle habits such as eating and exercise also play a major role. T2D makes up over 95% of all diabetes patients worldwide. Most people that know a person with diabetes know a person with T2D.
A child with T2D can still make insulin, but the cells have become desensitized to insulin over time. Think of it as the traffic sounds in NYC. Natives to the city no longer hear all the noise because they have become used to it even though it is still there. Changes in lifestyle habits and medications are used to treat T2D. However, like T1D, there is no cure.
I have learned so much about diabetes since my son was diagnosed, and learn more each day. Living with diabetes is something that is a challenge but never a limitation. I pray that we will see a cure in his lifetime and support research for a cure for ALL forms of diabetes.
Until that day, education and advocacy will continue to be necessary. Please help raise awareness and support all those living with diabetes by wearing blue on Nov. 14.