Today marks the first annual "Raise Your Voice" Type 1 Diabetes awareness day. We in the diabetes online community have noticed that "Diabetes" when mentioned in the public typically refers to Type 2 diabetes. There's a big difference between the two types, and we Type 1s felt the need to get the word out about the "invisible" disease that we deal with daily.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1987 - at age 6. At that point, blood glucose monitors took AGES (at least a minute, but I think it may have even taken 5 minutes) to read your "sugar". The recommended protocol was 2 tests a day - at breakfast and dinner, and two injections a day, also at breakfast and dinner. With this rigid schedule, much of diabetes management was controlled through food - no sugar, limited carbohydrates, etc, and by eating every 3 hours, regardless of hunger.
I was told not to worry - there would certainly be a cure by the time I reached my teens.
Well, my teens have come and gone, and now I'm in my (*gasp*) late 20's, and there's still no cure. Times and technology have certainly changed, though. Blood glucose monitors now return your value within 5 seconds, and some even offer "continuous" monitoring, although this technology is still pretty new. I now wear an insulin pump that came with the promise of food freedom - eat what you want, when you want...no worries. It's not quite that simple, however. I can have a slice of pizza or a cupcake if I choose, but I have to be extra diligent when I eat these things - they do whacky things to blood sugars, and it's really quite difficult to manage. Sometimes I eat them anyway, knowing that I'll have to pay later.
"Pay how?" you might ask. Blood sugars, ideally, should be in the 80-100 mg/dl range. Blood sugars are affected by the food you eat, exercise, stress, and many other (often unknown) reasons. When I eat pizza, because of the carbohydrate content and fat content, it often has an adverse affect on my blood sugar. Typically, several hours after I eat it, my blood sugar skyrockets - sometimes into the 200's, other times into the 500's. In an attempt to stifle these highs in advance, I try to account for this through my insulin pump and delivering varying amounts of insulin over a longer course of time. My attempts often result in a blood sugar of something horribly low (typically around 40).
Symptoms of highs: As Kerri over at Six Until Me so aptly describes it, when your blood sugar is high, it often feels like your teeth are wearing sweaters. Other symptoms I experience are nausea, crankiness, and slightly blurred vision. (Note: if you hear me say "I think I'm high" please interpret this as a diabetes-related feeling). Prolonged high blood sugars can cause eye damage, nerve damage, brain damage, and other serious complications in the long term. In the short term, if left untreated (with insulin), highs can cause Diabetic KetoAcidosis (DKA).
Symptoms of lows: Lows are equally fun with such feelings as dizziness, sweating, disorientation, shakiness, and a strange, butterfly-type feeling in in your stomach. Lows can quickly become dangerous, causing you to be completely disoriented and unable to function, often times if not treated (with food/sugar) causing you to pass out and/or have seizures.
Diabetes is a self-managed disease. That it can be "managed" is a good thing, but management is an all-the-time, non-stop burdon on the person with diabetes. There have been significant advances in technology, but regardless of how great the technology is, it isn't a cure. Recently, several studies have come out that are making leaps and bounds toward a cure. Let's hope that with the U.S. election later this year, our political leaders will support stem cell research - a likely solution for curing Type 1 Diabetes.
Today, raise YOUR voice about Type 1 diabetes. You can do this by posting a story about a person with Type 1 diabetes that you know, posting a comment on my blog, or by donating to the JDRF. Another useful site for diabetes information is the American Diabetes Association, who (among MANY other things) fundraises through an annual walk that I participate in. Stay tuned for shameless pleas for donations around Halloween!