by Kimberly Allen RN
Type I Diabetes has gone by other names in the past – insulin dependent diabetes and juvenile diabetes. Type I Diabetes is much less common than type II and it differs from Type II in many ways. First of all, it is an autoimmune disorder. Also, in type I diabetes, your pancreas simply does not produce insulin where as in type II your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin and what it does produce doesn’t work to open the cells. Type I has almost always developed in children as opposed to adults, however, in recent years studies have shown that more of the new cases of Type I diabetes are being diagnosed in adults and is now actually 2-3 times higher than in children. In the US the incidence of type I diabetes has been increasing at a rate of approximately 3% a year with approximately 1 million people being diagnosed with type I diabetes annually.
A diagnosis of diabetes is devastating whether it’s type I or type II, especially for children. They tend to focus on “will the other kids notice” than on learning to live with diabetes. The first and probably one of the most important things you need to do is learn about diabetes. If you’re the parent of a young child or teenager that has been diagnosed with type I diabetes remember it’s an autoimmune disorder, there is nothing you did to cause it anymore than you could have prevented it. Use your energy positively, the internet is loaded with information. Also, Your Dr will want to establish a “team” to help you and your child learn to manage diabetes. If you are an adult, especially if you live alone, it’s very important to develop a support system. Try to include family, friends and co-workers if possible. There are alos numerous support groups specifically for people with diabetes. It’s important to involve the whole family especially if the patient is a young child or teenager, everyone should learn about diabetes. The more you know the better you can manage your diabetes or teach your child how to manage his/her diabetes.
There are four areas that need to be addressed in order to effectively manage diabetes everyday, insulin, food, exercise and glucose testing. The biggest challenge is learning to balance your glucose levels with the other three.
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas to “open he door” in our cells to allow the glucose in to be used. In type I diabetes the pancreas isn’t releasing insulin into the bloodstream so the glucose is unable to enter our cells to be used and it builds up in the bloodstream causing damage.
Food, the one thing that most people don’t realize is that a person with type I diabetes can eat anything they want, they just have to be sure to take the amount of insulin needed for what they eat. Now lets be clear, candoes not mean should. Not only that, it’s not as easy as it sounds. first you need to count carbohydrates not sugar. You need to learn the carbohydrates in literally everything you eat.
Exercise is crucial in many ways, however, it’s important to learn and understand how much energy your body uses when exercising. Exercise help to manage your glucose levels. If you or your child is active in sports don’t feel you have to stop, you just need to monitor your glucose levels before during and after exercise especially in the beginning to develop an understanding of how much energy, food, your body needs when exercising.
Monitoring glucose levels is something you’ll need to do frequently especially in the beginning. Monitor your glucose levels helps you to learn how your body reacts to certain foods as well as exercise. Many type I diabetics play sports etc, the secret is knowing your glucose levels and how to manage them.
There has been significant research in recent years on both type I and II diabetes leading to better tools available to help manage diabetes. There are new devices available to measure your glucose levels that are much less painful than the old ones. Believe me it does make a difference, the number one reason diabetics don’t monitor their glucose levels is their fingers are too sore and need a rest. Another is cost, today there are several medical supply companies that assist diabetics in obtaining either free or very low cost supplies. Advances have also been made in insulin and insulin administration. Insulin pumps are available that many people with type I diabetes have declared “life changing”. The only “cure” for type I diabetes is a pancreatic transplant and while it may cure the diabetes it brings along awole other set of potential health issues including rejection.
Living a full and active life with type I diabetes is possible but you can’t do it alone and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. Type I diabetes is not something to be embarrassed by or ashamed of there are many others out there that are also learning to live with diabetes so in many ways if you take the lead and ask for help others will see and feel it’s OK if they ask for help too.