Updated: Aug 3
So, the first thing you should know about diabetes is that there are two types. Type 1 and Type 2. They are actually very different from each other. Type 1 is insulin dependent diabetes and Type 2 is Insulin resistant diabetes.
The biggest question I get is "How can your son be diabetic, he's so skinny." or "Oh, he must eat a lot of sweets, huh?" Umm there is so much wrong with those questions.
First, my son is a type 1 diabetic. That means his pancreas doesn't work at all. His own body does not create insulin. His own body destroyed its ability to create a life giving hormone. He could be skinny, obese, a huge sweet eater, or the healthiest eater on the planet and he would still have diabetes. The biggest misconception I find is that if a person is diabetic they must be fat and eat badly. Not true at all for type ones and may or may not be for type twos. Type 2 diabetes is more prevalent in those who are overweight or eat poorly and losing weight and eating right can reverse the effects of diabetes in a some Type 2's. However, I have known thin type 2's who get plenty of exercise. Diet seems to be a huge factor but not necessarily the only one.
Type 1 can only be treated by insulin therapy. A type 1 Diabetic must have insulin injections/pumps to survive. Type 2 diabetics have various therapies. Diet and exercise are all that is needed by some. Some need medicine and some need insulin.
As most of you know, I'm not easily offended but the next time you make fat jokes/over eating jokes about diabetics, I ask you to rethink that. As a mother it does bother me that people think my son must be unhealthy because he is diabetic. My son is actually quite healthy considering he has an autoimmune disease (diabetes). Yes, his immune system can be weaker than people without diabetes but he works hard to stay healthy and deserves to be recognized for that. His (or mine for him) life choices did not create his diabetes. We really aren't even sure what did. Could it be pollution? Could it be genetics? Could it be something he was exposed to in life (meds, vaccines, chemicals etc.) The answer to all of these is yes. But we really don't know for sure. Something makes the pancreas stop working. Period. The reason I bring this up is less about me being offended and more about how much the misconceptions of diabetes affects the diabetic and the community that is trying to find a cure. Which brings me to the biggest, most dangers misconception about diabetes.
Diabetes is just another disease, easily treatable, not dangerous. Ha!!! When blood sugar is too high for too long, diabetics of both types develop DKA - Diabetic Ketoacidosis - A serious diabetes complication where the body produces excess blood acids (ketones). This condition occurs when there isn't enough insulin in the body. It can be triggered by infection or other illness. Symptoms include thirst, frequent urination, nausea, abdominal pain, weakness, fruity-scented breath, and confusion. Hospital treatment to replace fluids and electrolytes and provide insulin therapy may be needed. This is what my son developed. He almost died. Another couple hours without treatment and he would have.
And then we have low blood sugar. It is a much quicker killer though. You can't be low for months before you die like you can when you're high. If you go too low and can't get it back up it's death. And the worst part is... if you get dangerously low, you can't just walk into the kitchen and drink a soda or some orange juice. You get dizzy, disoriented, weak. You might not have the time to fix it yourself. And for a mother, that's damn scary. That's why, before my son got his pump and continuous glucose monitor, I check on him several times a night every night; pricking his finger to make sure he didn't go too low. For a parent, diabetes is living in constant fear. For the child who has it, you just hope they don't realize the danger or if they do they are able to overcome it and live their life to the fullest. And yes, type 2's can face the same dangers. Diabetes is NOT just another disease. It can kill at a moments notice whether the diabetic is a healthy thin child or an obese adult.
So, what are some other dangers of diabetes? Well, if it isn't well controlled your body will definitely let you know. You can develop heart issues, kidney issues, eye issues including blindness, circulatory issues that can result in amputation, neuropathy and much much more long term health problems. Diabetes is not something to mess with, it is not something to ignore, and in most cases it is not something to be used as a weapon to hurt someone. Yes, sometimes joking about diabetes can be therapeutic and fun but purposely degrading someone who has it does nothing for the diabetic, the diabetes community or anyone else.
So, how do you tell if you have diabetes? Well there are definite signs but they can be mistaken for something else and many times they are things we can't see. I will tell you my son's story and then I will list the specific symptoms. My son was a very active boy and he and the neighbor kid seemed to be getting along and wanting to spend all their time together outside playing. He was so busy that when he kept coming in to get drinks I thought nothing of it. And when in turn, he started to pee a lot, I thought nothing of it. He was drinking more because he was playing more. Right? The same went with his increased appetite. And since he was outside so much in the winter and pretty much came home and went straight to bed or bathed with his sibling, I didn't see him without clothes much and didn't know how skinny he was getting. And then he got strep throat. I took him to the doctor because he had a bad sore throat, a super stuffy nose and was breathing heavily. The doctor diagnosed him, ruled out the flu and attributed the breathing to the stuffy nose. So, I took him home to treat him with the prescribed antibiotics and thought we were in the clear. But after three days, he just didn't seem to be getting better and my sweet active boy was weepy and super sleepy. It was a Sunday so I decided first thing on Monday I would take him to the doctors again. But when he woke up early on that Sunday morning his breathing was worse and he couldn't even keep water down. His breathing was what really scared me. So I called my husband and work and he came home to take us to the ER. I could feel it in my gut. This was something more than strep throat. I was thinking maybe pneumonia but I just wasn't sure.
We were in the ER for less than 20 minutes when the doctor pulled us aside and told us our little boy had diabetes. First thing they had done was take blood and his blood sugar reading and A1c reading told them everything he'd needed to know. Mama's don't ignore your gut instinct. Years earlier, because of the smell of his breath and his pee I had wondered if he had diabetes but the doctor told me that I had nothing to worry about because he didn't have any of the real symptoms. I should have listened to my gut and kept a closer eye on him through the years. We may have caught it sooner.
So, many of the symptoms of diabetes can be misread. Many parents attribute them to different things like growth spurts or activity level changes etc. Just like I did. If you notice your child has these symptoms, please take them to their doctor to have their blood sugar tested. It might be a growth spurt but it might be diabetes and if you catch it early, you don't have to face the fear of taking a child to the ER on the verge of death.
Diabetes Symptoms: From CDC.gov
Urinate (pee) a lot, often at night
Are very thirsty
Lose weight without trying
Are very hungry
Have blurry vision
Have numb or tingling hands or feet
Feel very tired
Have very dry skin
Have sores that heal slowly
Have more infections than usual
Type 1 Diabetes
People who have Type1 may also have nausea, vomiting, or stomach pains. Type 1 diabetes symptoms can develop in just a few weeks or months and can be severe. Type 1 diabetes usually starts when you’re a child, teen, or young adult but can happen at any age.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 symptoms often take several years to develop. Some people don’t notice any symptoms at all. Type 2 diabetes usually starts when you’re an adult, though more and more children and teens are developing it. Because symptoms are hard to spot, it’s important to know the risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Make sure to visit your doctor if you have any of them.
If you ever have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me.
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