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8 Things I Wish Everyone Understood About Type 1 Diabetes

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As a Type 1 diabetic, I have to believe it is one of the most misunderstood diseases out there. This is thanks to its portrayal in the media and “diabetes jokes,” among other things. Type 1 diabetes is a different disease than Type 2 diabetes, both come with stereotypes, and about 90 percent of people with diabetes have Type 2, so you hear about it more.

Here are some things you should know about people with Type 1:

1. We didn’t get diabetes from living an unhealthy lifestyle. Actually, we had absolutely zero control over it, and nothing could have prevented it. It is impossible for you to get Type 1 diabetes from eating that chocolate bar. Type 1 is a serious autoimmune disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

2. Without insulin, a person will die. Everybody in the world needs insulin. There is no way around it. As a matter of fact, a diabetic can go into a diabetic coma within less than 72 hours without insulin. No amount of healthy eating or exercise will ever eliminate the need for a Type 1 diabetic to receive insulin. We’d definitely have some challenges in a zombie apocalypse.

3. Yes, we can eat sugar! If our blood sugar is high or normal, we just have to give ourselves insulin based on the amount of sugar we eat. If our blood sugar is low, then we would eat the amount of sugar needed to correct the low blood sugar.

4. Type 1 is a disease of balance. It is constant management of trying not to let your blood sugar go too low or too high. It really is a full time job you have to be constantly thinking about and managing. If your blood sugar is too high too often, complications can occur. We work hard to stay alive!

woman checking her insulin levels

5. Sometimes Type 1 makes us feel different. Sometimes we have to be careful with our meals, and sometimes we have to test our blood sugar at inconvenient times. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes we get tired of the constant work we have to put into it. Sometimes we burn out. Your love and support means the world to us.

6. Some of us use an insulin pump, which is a device that kind of looks like a pager that contains a cartridge of insulin which is delivered into your body through a thin tube. Others use insulin pens or plain old syringes. We have to give ourselves insulin most times we eat.

7. Despite these challenges, we can do anything! Sebastien Sasseville, who has Type 1, climbed Mount Everest and ran across Canada. Another Type 1, Dr. Natalie Strand, won “The Amazing Race.”

8. We want you to know the symptoms. It could truly save a life! Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include increased thirst, excessive urination, extreme fatigue, unintended weight loss, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, and fruity breath. It most frequently appears in children and teens, but can also show up as an adult!

Originally published: July 12, 2016
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