Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Diabetes Aware

I've been told that today is the day that we (the blogging community of persons with diabetes...though, perhaps I should trademark that as "The Blogging Community of Persons with Diabetes" or TBCPD) are to blog about diabetes.

Why? Because November is Diabetes Awareness Month.

So, are you aware of diabetes? Chances are you know someone with diabetes. But how much do you actually know about the disease? I'm frequently amazed at how much people know about diabetes that is actually wrong.

Part of the problem is that the term "diabetes" primarily applies to two completely different diseases. These two forms have various names, though the most commonly accepted terms are "Type 1" and "Type 2".

Type 1, which is what I have had since I was nine, is also known as Juvenile Diabetes. This is because, usually, it is diagnosed during one's childhood. But that isn't always the case. Anyhow, with Type 1, you are dealing with an autoimmune disease. There is some (as yet, unknown) environmental trigger that causes the body to attack itself. The body kills off the beta cells which produce insulin. Without insulin, of course, you die. This is why Type 1 diabetics spend the remainder of their lives giving themselves insulin.

The second type...Type 2. This is also known as adult onset. Type 2 is not fully understood, but is strongly tied to obesity. Scientists haven't yet decided if the obesity actually causes Type 2, or if obesity is more or less another symptom of the fundamental cause of Type 2. Regardless, anyone who is overweight is at greater risk for developing Type 2. And Type 2 is typically diet-controlled, perhaps with oral medication. However, Type 2 can develop into insulin-dependence. This doesn't mean it becomes Type 1. It just means the Type 2 diabetic must also give insulin.

There are a few other forms of diabetes (such as gestational, which is similar to Type 2), but a majority of diabetics fall under the banner of Type 1 or Type 2.

So...what does all that difference mean? Plenty. Frankly, I am very thankful I am not a Type 2 diabetic. There seems to be this idea the Type 1 is "worse" than Type 2 for some reason. I'm guessing because if I stop giving myself insulin, I'll keel over. But in practice, Type 1 is far easier (well, in relative terms) to deal with. Type 2 forces a completely lifestyle change. Type 1, not so much. I can still eat pretty much anything I want...I just have to be aware of what I'm eating and adjust insulin accordingly.

The Type 2 diabetic, however, doesn't have such a luxury. They can never know for sure how their body will react to the amount of food they are eating, or how insulin resistant they are on any given day. Not to mention, Type 2 is far more prolific than Type 1. I probably have the percentage wrong...but if I recall, Type 1 only accounts for 5-10% of diabetes cases in the United States.

In both cases, diabetics must keep close tabs on their blood sugar (aka, BGL or Blood Glucose Levels). Frequest testing is required. And, diabetics live out their lives concerned about the development of various complications, such as blindness (retinopathy), neuropathy, heart disease, etc.

If you believe that diabetes doesn't impact you, you are already mistaken there. Even if you are perfectly healthy and skinny-as-a-twig, diabetes and it's complications is one of the number one medical expenses driving up health care today.

So, there you have a nutshell. Of course, there is far more to learn. Check out the American Diabetes Association for more information.

Thank you. You are dismissed.


Martha O'Connor said...

Great discussion, Ryan! I should print it out and hand it around to the next person who tells me they understand my son's disease because "my grandmother had it... and she just changed her diet."

AmyT said...

Right on, Ryan. I'm adding you to my blogroll at Come visit me on D-Blog day too?


Sandra Miller said...

Excellent post, Ryan!

Like Martha, I'd like to print this out and distribute at will...

Take care,


Oh, by the way, keep us posted on your son. A friend of mine has a 9-yr old boy who was dx'd a couple of years ago with Central Auditory Processing Disorder. When I read your post, this boy came immediately to mind (though I was unaware of his diagnosis until I asked his mom about it yesterday).

Kerri. said...

TBCPD??? It's the O.C., my dear writer friend. For "online community." But your acronym rolls easily, too. Come up with theme song and I'll roll out your patent. ;)

Rachel said...

I read your comment on Diabetes Mine and how frighteningly similar our situations are.

I was diagnosed with type 2 in March, diet & exercise only (borderline numbers). My husband's been type 1 for close to 20 years.

Kathleen Weaver said...

Very GOOD explaination about the Types.

I vote for the one big major problem causes the obesity, diabetes, etc. though I have a feeling it's multiple genes.

Val said...

Great post - I just got back from a family party where I had to explain like 15 times that T1 and T2 are two completely different diseases with the same symptoms... and how watching what I ate wasn't going to mean I wouldn't need to use the pump. I too would like to distribute your summary - or maybe we could just make a T-shirt with two columns "Type 1" "Type 2" and the major points under each -- some would be in common though, like "sucks"...

gina said...

Ryan, I need to add you to my list, thanks for such a great post! Spread Awareness!! happy dblog day!!

Allison said...

You're always so educational, Ryan. ;-)

Check out the Diabetes OC's official website:

Take care,

RyanBruner said...

Well, for those who mentioned it, I hereby grant you permission to print out this blog entry and pass it around.

You'll just have to fill out these few forms in triplicate, plus send a check for $59.95...

Oh. I'm feeling generous today. You can skip the forms. Just send the check. :-D

Anyhow, I don't know...the "O.C." sounds so...well, like my grandmother's name. Osie. (Seriously.)

Well, you know. My idea is so much easier to remember!

ME said...

In the old days (1963 to be exact) when I was diagnosed, Type 1 also required a complete lifestyle change. And, for a child, that was sometimes very devastating since childhood revolves around birthday parties and other such events when lots of "goodies" are present. My family went through a traumatic lifestyle change when my sister was diagnosed in 1962 when she was four years old, so a year later when I was diagnosed at 11, we were already fairly used to diabetes.

I agree that today, while Type 1 is in some ways easier to manage with the new technology out there, some people still have many problems trying to regulate their bgs. A very dear friend of mine had an awful time and she tried so hard, but always seemed to fail at reaching the illusive 6.something A1c. She passed away 3 years ago in her sleep, possibly from a low during the night, possibly from a heart attack. The autopsy was never conclusive.

The sad fact is, no matter how far technology comes or how hard we try to understand diabetes treatment, some people just can never seem to "do it right". And some people, like me, get it right with very little effort. I don't know why it's that way, perhaps some other genes contribute to it.

I wish the news media would recognize that there are indeed two sometimes very different types of diabetes. I hate when people hear that I, at the age of 54, have diabetes. Then I get those looks... you know the ones that say, "well geeze if you'd just lose a few pounds you would need that pump" or "if you wouldn't eat that *insert goodie type here* you wouldn't need that pump". I will always need to take insulin and a pump IS the most effective, flexible way for me to do so. But, it's still not a cure. It helps me to have an A1c as close to "normal" as I can. It helps me to try to keep my bgs as stable on a daily basis as possible, but it still doesn't make life "easy" for me. I still deal with diabetes every day of my life, and frankly after 42 years, I am getting tired of it. What happened to that cure that was just around the corner when I was diagnosed? Oh well, guess I'll just have to keep waiting. (Didn't mean to get so carried away here. *S*)