The Truth Behind Diabetes

By: Emily Bevelhymer

Diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that people recognize but many do know the facts. As a Type 1 Diabetic, I have heard every comment and question that is associated with the disorder. People who recognize the disease usually comment, “I think one of my grandparents have that,” and the most common question is, “Can you eat that?” Diabetes has many misconceptions surrounding it so here are some clarifications on the issues of diabetes.

What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder where the body does not produce insulin. People who have Type 1 diabetes are dependent on insulin and there is no cure for the disease. Type 2 diabetes is when the body produces insulin but the body cannot properly use the insulin produced. Type 2 diabetes can be managed with diet and exercise. One thing type 1 and 2 have in common is that neither disease is contagious.

What causes someone to develop Type 1 diabetes?

The cause is unknown but it is known that the disease is neither preventable or curable.

How is Type 1 diabetes managed?

Diabetes is managed through checking blood sugars and taking insulin. Every time before a diabetic eats, they must check their blood sugar. After eating a diabetic must perform the job of a pancreas and administer insulin. A diabetic also must manage blood sugar levels. A high blood sugar means that not enough insulin was taken and more must be taken to correct the high blood sugar. Another type of blood sugar that must be managed is low blood sugar. Low blood sugar is when too much insulin was taken and glucose must be taken to correct.

What can a Type 1 diabetic eat?

A diabetic can eat anything they want as long as they take insulin for the food they eat. Any dietary restrictions a diabetic follows are personal choices and are for the same reasons any other person would choose to eat healthy and choose certain foods over others.

How does diabetes affect people?

Diabetes can be a life threatening disease if not managed. Extreme high and low blood sugars can result in life threatening situations. An extreme low can cause a diabetic to go unconscious and go into a coma. At the opposite end, extremely high blood sugar can result in DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) which is when the body does receive enough insulin and begins to break down fat. Diabetes can also affect moods based on blood sugar levels. When a diabetic is crabby and stubborn they could just be low. The symptoms of high blood sugar include nausea, extreme thirst, and frequent urination. The symptoms of low blood sugar include shaky and pale skin, hunger, and confusion.

What is the difference between sugar and carbs?

Just because food doesn’t have sugar in it does not mean it does not contain carbs. Almost all food contains carbs, and whether a diabetic eats sugar or carbs, they must take insulin to manage their blood sugar levels.

What devices are used to manage Type 1 diabetes?

Blood glucose meter: A blood glucose meter is used to test blood sugar levels.

Lancet: A lancet is a device that contains a small needle that is used to draw blood to test blood sugar levels.

Test strips: Test strips are inserted into a blood glucose meter and absorb the blood to test blood sugar levels.

Insulin: Insulin can be carried in two ways with the first being a syringe. A syringe in used in combination with a vial of insulin where the insulin is drawn from the vial and injected using a syringe. The second way insulin is administered is through a pump. A pump is a device attached to the body of a diabetic and uses controls to administer insulin. A pump is changed every few days depending on the model.

CMG: A CGM is a continuous glucose monitor which is a device that is also attached to a diabetic. A CGM is used in place of a blood glucose meter and continuously sends blood sugar readings to a small handheld device or a phone.

Fast acting sugar: A diabetic usually always has a juice box, glucose tablets, or some form of granola bar or sugary snack for treating low blood sugar.

Questions and comments to avoid saying to a diabetic:

  • Are you allowed to eat that?
  • You shouldn’t be eating sugar!
  • Did you get diabetes from eating too much sugar?
  • Jokes about eating too much sugar and getting diabetes.
  • Acting as a doctor or expert about diabetes.
  • How did you get diabetes if you’re so skinny?
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