As many of you know, I'm a mom, raising a daughter with type 1 diabetes. Nothing about this disease has been fun. And what I've found over the past two years is that people think that type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the same. They are not!
Type 2 diabetes is a result of people not taking care of themselves. Their pancreas produces insulin (sometimes just not as much), but their body no longer absorbs it. Their body has become insulin resistent. Insulin resistence can be caused by being overweight, having high blood pressure for a long period of time, and even a person's genetic make-up. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle, which includes exercising, weight control, and eating healthy. Today, type 2 diabetes makes up about 90 - 95% of diabetics and most type 2 diabetics are over the age of 40 years.
With type 1 diabetes, a person's pancreas no longer produces insulin, a result of something (i.e. virus) that attacked the insulin producing beta cells of their pancreas. The most difficult part of someone having type 1 diabetes is that no one knows what destroyed their insulin producing cells. Today, there isn't a cure and it can't be delayed. The most common age for the onset of type 1 diabetes is 5 to 7 years old. It's known as a child and young adult disease.
My type 1 diabetic daughter is thin, healthy, and active. She plays sports and eats healthy. Supposedly, she got a virus which attacked the beta cells of her pancreas, killing them. She now is 100% insulin dependent. Her pancreas cannot produce insulin, but can absorb it if given. This disease is considered an autoimmune disease.
The highs and lows a type 1 diabetic has is a constant juggling act. The weather, their stress level, their emotional state, and their health all impacts their blood sugar. It’s not just food that a type 1 diabetic has to worry about. It’s everything they do and feel. A simple pill won't fix their problem. Exercising, losing weight, and eating healthy won't cure them or delay their illness. Every day, until their is a cure, they have to have insulin shots or wear an insulin pump which is attached to their body. And six to ten times a day they have to check their blood sugar by pricking their fingers to prevent and better manage their highs and lows.
Trying to predict how a change in a type 1 diabetics lifestyle will affect their blood sugar is like trying to predict the lotto. Just yesterday, my daughter's blood sugar was 56 at school. She had just come in from recess which burned off some of her blood sugar. Normally, you would give her a 15 carb juice and some protein to raise her blood sugar, and then check it again in 15 minutes. But Madison's scenario was a little different. She had eaten lunch about 45 minutes earlier, so she had insulin still in her body (2 units), processing all the carbs she had eaten for lunch. The teacher and nurse were trained to take into account the insulin on board, meaning give her enough juice and protein to cover the insulin that her insulin pump said she still had in her body so she didn't drop more. But for Madison, her body works differently. The insulin on board was still processing the carbs. Her body works slower than other type 1 diabetics when processing certain carbs. When Madison got home, her blood sugar was 351. They had given her way too much to eat and drink.
The above scenario is constant in a type 1 diabetics life. Every thing they do, feel and eat affects their blood sugar, causing them to have to constantly stay on top of their blood sugar by checking it every two to three hours. There are minutes during the day where we haven't a clue why Madison's blood sugar is dropping or why it is all of a sudden high.
Differences between type 1 and type 2:
- Type 2 diabetes can be prevented, delayed and even cured if they start eating healthier and exercise. Type 1 cannot be cured today.
- Type 2 diabetes can happen at any age. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in children and young adults. Like I mentioned earlier, the most common age for the onset of type 1 diabetes is 5 to 7 years old.
- Some type 2 diabetics don't need medicine. Some need to take pills daily. And some do need insulin shots. With type 1, all have to take insulin shots or wear an insulin pump.
- People with type 1 diabetes have to manage their highs and lows by checking their blood sugar 6 to 10 times a day, depending on their activity level and daily events.
Similarities between type 1 and type 2:
- Both can lead to major complications if not managed such as blindness, kidney failure and loss of limb.