I know I don’t remember the details of each health warning for my kids, and my mind is becoming a disorganized catalog of things to watch out for. So I want you to know I get it. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be a medical expert to guard your children’s health.
November is National Diabetes Awareness month. So here I am, refreshing my diabetes education, passing along some great information to you, and sharing the story of my connection to this disease.
A little more than two years ago, my husband’s brother, Shaun, died of Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). He thought he had the flu or a bug of some kind and told family he was sick that weekend. When he didn’t show up for work, and wasn’t responding to phone calls, the police had to break into his apartment. He was already gone by that time. He was healthy and fit, and he was 34 years old.
No one knew that he had developed type 1 diabetes.
Shaun would have thought it was weird for me to be writing about him. He was a really private person, and I’m going to respect that. This isn’t a post about how wonderful he was or how much we miss him (but we do).
All I know is that God takes these tragedies and turns them into something good. So here’s something very good: Diabetes awareness.
10 Things You Should Know About Diabetes
Before I had any connection to diabetes, I knew very little about it. I associated it with older people, specifically Wilford Brimley and his concern for others with di-uh-beet-us. If that’s where you’re at, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
What Diabetes Is
I like layman’s terms, so I’m just going to describe it like the normal, non-professional person that I am. Diabetes is a group of diseases caused by really high blood sugar. If a person can’t process sugar (not just the white stuff) correctly, through the hormone called insulin, it means your body doesn’t convert food to energy. That’s not good news.
The Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
I’m pretty sure this is the biggest source of confusion about diabetes. It’s important to be aware of the difference between the two types. Learn this, for the sake of everyone everywhere affected by diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease that occurs when the pancreas stops producing the hormone insulin. It accounts for roughly 5-10% of the more than 420 million global cases of diabetes. People with Type 1 are insulin-dependent for life. It can happen to anyone, no matter how healthy, at any age.
- Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot properly use insulin, also known as “insulin-resistance,” and can often be treated through diet, exercise, and medication.
What Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) Isn’t
- T1D isn’t preventable.
- T1D isn’t caused by diet.
- T1D isn’t related to weight or BMI.
- T1D isn’t curable.
- T1D isn’t something that goes away or something a person will ever outgrow.
- T1D isn’t just developed by children. More adults are diagnosed with it every year.
- T1D isn’t fully understood, and the cause is unknown.
- T1D isn’t easy.
The good news is that T1D is manageable. Especially when the person and their family and friends are educated about it.
Type 1 Warning Signs
I think every mom needs to be familiar with the warning signs of type 1 diabetes. Because the average age of diagnosis is 14, be extra vigilant while your kids are under your roof. T1D isn’t limited to any age though.
This printable graphic says it all.
Don’t just scan this list and move on. Save it on your phone, print out the picture, or write it down and put it in your medicine cabinet. Having this next to your Pepto Bismol and Nyquil will keep you from feeling like this is something else to file away in your brain’s catalog. I’m pretty sure I’ll never forget these symptoms, but I still have them handy. You should too!
Diabetes Can be Mistaken for Other Problems
Even though diabetes can be easily and quickly caught, it’s often hard to understand what’s happening at the onset of T1D, for parents and doctors alike. A lot of parents think their kids are going through a growth spurt, or have a virus when it hits their kids. Other times, the frequent urination can make some think a UTI is at fault. The weight loss can even lead to a misdiagnosis of an eating disorder.
I think it’s important to have this question in your back pocket for your doctor, for yourself and especially your kids: Could it be diabetes? Or, better yet, Can you do a quick blood sugar check?
How Diabetes is Diagnosed
Both types of diabetes can be diagnosed by a simple urine test or finger prick. Get to a doctor for these tests and to get a diagnosis.
BUT if it’s easier and you want a quick answer, you can grab a glucose meter and test strips at your local drugstore without a prescription. Or, if you know someone with diabetes, ask to use their meter. I think of this the way we ladies think of home pregnancy tests. Sometimes we want a quick answer, but we also know we need to see a doctor for diagnosis and to get on the path of medical care. Don’t rely on your own testing and see your doctor if you think you or someone you love may have diabetes.
The Cost of Staying Alive
People with T1D can’t survive without daily doses of insulin. Diet doesn’t change that fact. Nothing changes that fact. Pills are not effective with T1D, the insulin has to be injected through a needle, a pen syringe, or a pump.
The price of insulin in the US has tripled over the last 10 years. There are no generic forms of manufactured insulin, because it’s not allowed. Even for those with insurance, a recent study found the price of insulin to be $736 per year. New types of insulin have added to that cost, making it in the thousands for some.
Famous People with T1D
These are just a few.
- Nick Jonas
- Jay Cutler
- Sharon Stone
- Vanessa Williams
- Victor Garber
- Mary Tyler Moore
- Bret Michaels
- Anne Rice
Teaching and Play Tools for Kids
Jerry the Bear is the bees’ knees of teaching tools and toys for kids with diabetes. (Does anyone say bees knees anymore?) It comes with 21 e-books on his free app that are unlocked as the child takes more steps in learning about T1D. You can donate a bear to a child who can’t afford one here.
American Girl makes a diabetes care kit for dolls, and I think it’s genius! It’s only $24, and you can grab it here. Having this toy has meant a lot to kids who have diabetes, and their parents too.
How to Support Someone with T1D
Learning a bit about type 1 is a really great thing to do, so you’re on the right path! From what I’ve learned, people with T1D could use just a bit more understanding.
I absolutely love the resources from Beyond Type 1 created for those who have someone with T1D in their lives (coach, best friend, grandparent, employer, etc.) Please take a look and click on Teaching Type 1 to Others.
How You Can Help
There are so many ways to help, it’s almost overwhelming! Just take some deep breaths, and start here.
Watch This Video
I think the video below is the perfect note to end on.
It is not your fault that you have this medical condition. You did nothing. You are so innocent in this. It is not your parents’ fault either. They are so innocent.
-Rhonda Tosh, MS, RD / CDE
This quote comes from the following film discussing T1D and what it’s like the first day you find out you have diabetes. It’s encouraging, educational, and funny too. This video is 25 minutes long, perfect to put on while you cook dinner. But if you can’t do that, at least watch the first five minutes. Everyone should watch this, not just people who already have a connection to T1D. Can you spare five minutes? Just hit play.
To learn more about Type 1 Diabetes, I can’t say enough about the resources on the site Beyond Type 1. I got lots of the information you just read from that site. Please go check it out!