According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 30 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes and 86 million more are pre-diabetic, meaning they are showing signs of developing the disease.
But, despite evidence showing our power to prevent Type 2, the CDC still expects 2 out of 5 Americans to develop it in their lifetime.
With startling statistics like these, it’s no surprise that the focus of diabetes awareness in our nation centers on Type 2.
But these staggering numbers often overshadow another very serious form of this disease: Type 1 diabetes.
Affecting 1.25 million Americans, Type 1 is a disease that was once called juvenile diabetes — but the fact is, of the 40,000 people diagnosed with Type 1 in the U.S. each year, about half are adults.
What many folks don’t know is that Type 1 has some very important differences from other forms of diabetes:
Unlike Type 2, Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, meaning it occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys insulin producing cells in the pancreas. Type 1 is absolutely not a result of diet or lifestyle choices, nor can it be reversed or cured through diet, exercise or lifestyle changes.
A person with Type 1 cannot produce insulin, a hormone that allows the body to get energy from food, but instead must take insulin every day — either by injection or via an insulin pump — in order to transform the food they eat into energy.
They must also test their blood sugar, via finger poke, with a blood glucose meter several times per day. Dangerously low or high blood sugars are a constant threat to those with Type 1 — meaning awareness of blood sugar numbers and emergency preparedness, especially by caregivers of children with the disease, is required for safety and survival.
At present, Type 1 diabetes is not preventable or curable and no one knows for sure what triggers it, although researchers suspect a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Every year, 15,000 children are diagnosed with Type 1 and many are too young to communicate or identify the symptoms they are experiencing.
The warning signs of Type 1 Diabetes can often develop suddenly, they include:
- Extreme thirst
- Frequent urination
- Heavy or labored breathing
- Drowsiness or lethargy
- Increased appetite
- Sugar in urine
- Fruity odor on the breath
- Sudden weight loss
- Sudden changes in vision
- Stupor or unconsciousness
We are not powerless, however, because knowing the signs and symptoms of Type 1 diabetes is a powerful tool that we can all use.
When parents, teachers, caregivers and health professionals are educated about the warning signs of Type 1, the risk of dire complications resulting from the disease when it is undiagnosed or untreated can be greatly reduced.
Someone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately and be placed in the care of a specialist, as incorrect treatment of someone newly diagnosed can be fatal.
Adults and children with Type 1 can go on to live happy and healthy lives once they have the skills and tools they need to manage their diabetes with confidence.
The more information we know and share about Type 1, the better off our communities — and entire nation — will be. Education and awareness is paramount: allowing us to control diabetes, instead of being controlled by it.
You can find more information about Type 1 diabetes here.