6 Things Ally Wants People to Know About Diabetes
(* I thought it would be fun to hear Ally's version...she did not even bat an eye when I asked her and spouted out #1. I guess she's been thinking about what she'd like other people to know about diabetes already...here's what was on her mind, in her own words!)
- I'm mostly like everybody else...I'm not that different.
- I have an insulin pump. I have a site and a needle goes in my body for the site. I also prick my fingers to check my sugar lots of times every day...I'd say like 20 times a day!!
- When I was first diagnosed I was in the hospital....I didn't feel good. I thought when I first got diagnosed...well, I thought I was going to die. Because of "die-abetes"...but I'm not going to die.....
- I also thought it was because I ate too much sugar but it has nothing to do with that!!!
- I didn't cause diabetes. My pancreas just said "I'm too lazy to do the work anymore."
- If I'm low I have to drink a juice box. (Ally's target range for her blood sugar is 70-130; She is "low" if she is less than 70.)
Now for My Version....6 Things I Want People to Know About Diabetes
(When I started thinking about this, several of my answers were exactly what Ally was saying! She is not only brave, she is wise beyond her years. And even though I say that with pride, I am also angry that she has to know about this terrible disease. I will continue to support, advocate and educate in the best ways I know how until. there. is. a. cure!)
1. There are two major types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person's pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which a person's body still produces insulin but is unable to use it effectively. Type 2 is usually diagnosed in adulthood and does not always require insulin injections.
2. Ally can eat anything that she wants. We just have to measure or weigh the food and count the carbohydrates in the food or drink that she is consuming. We account for that by giving her the proper amount of insulin. Now, with that being said...I strive for Ally to eat a well balanced diet, just as I do for the rest of my family.
3. Ally did not do anything to cause her diabetes. Her pancreas quit on her! Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person's own body (white blood cells) attack the insulin producing cells (beta cells) in the pancreas.
4. Type 1 Diabetes is not reversible. It is not controlled by diet and exercise. Ally is kept alive by insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must take multiple injections of insulin daily or continually infuse insulin through a pump.
5. I worry about Ally's blood sugar numbers all the time. If you know me, you know this. But let me tell you why...This is because of what high blood glucose can do to Ally's body over time (refer to #6). Even more immediately threatening is severe hypoglycemia or low blood glucose. Severe hypoglycemia can lead to unconsciousness, seizures, coma or even death. Even when we do everything right...monitoring her blood sugar, accounting for carbs, etc...lows can happen and they can come on quickly.
6. She is not "just fine." We do not "manage her diabetes really well." YES, she is beautiful! YES, she is a trooper and I'd bet you've never even seen her complain about all those finger pricks, shots, or sites inserted with a needle. But she is not fine. She suffers every day from this horrible disease, whether we can see it or not. Below are some of the major complications of Type 1 Diabetes. She is not fine. We need a cure.
The risk of heart disease is substantially increased for people with diabetes.
Kidney Disease (Nephropathy)
After 7 to 15 years, 25 to 40% of all patients with Type 1 diabetes develop microalbuminuria. Of these, over 90% progress to proteinuria over time. Kidney function declines at variable rates; it appears to be a slower decline in Type 2 diabetes. After 10 years of persistent proteinuria, the incidence of chronic kidney failure is 50% in those with Type 1 diabetes.
BlindnessThree complications of diabetes can lead to blindness: retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. Of people who have had diabetes for at least 15 years, 97% of insulin-taking patients and 80% of those not taking insulin have retinopathy; the most severe manifestation, proliferative diabetic retinopathy, occurs in 40% of those taking insulin and 5% of those not taking insulin. Of people who have had insulin-dependent diabetes for 30 or more years, 12% are blind. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of new cases of legal blindness among the working age population.
Nervous System Disease (Neuropathy)
Roughly 60% of people with diabetes have some degree of diabetic neuropathy, and in half of these it develops within nine years of diagnosis. Most have a mixed motor/sensory deficit resulting in decreased sensation, increased sensitivity, pain, weakness, and muscle wasting. Frequently, abnormal functioning of the autonomic (self-functioning) nervous system leads to disorders of the heart and circulation, and gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts.
Lower Extremity Amputations (LEA)
The risk of lower extremity (limb) amputations following diabetes diagnosis is 6% at 20 years and 11% at 30 years. Lower limb amputations are typically the result of a foot infection that does not heal and eventually becomes gangrenous. The initial wound is often the result of a lack of protective sensory function in the foot due to neuropathy. The inability of the wound to heal properly is due to decreased blood and nutrient flow to the lower limbs, the result of peripheral vascular disease in most cases.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
High blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Periodontal disease (a type of disease that can lead to tooth loss) occurs with greater frequency and severity among people with diabetes. Periodontal disease has been reported to occur among 30% of people aged 19 years or older with Type 1 diabetes.
Complications of Pregnancy (for women with pre-existing diabetes)
The rate of major congenital malformations in babies born to women with pre-existing diabetes varies from 0% to 5% among women who receive preconception care to 10% among women who do not. Between 3% and 5% of pregnancies among women with diabetes result in the death of the newborn; the rate among women who do not have diabetes is 1.5%.
Diabetes can directly cause acute life-threatening events, such as diabetic ketoacidosis and hyperosmolar nonketotic coma, as a result of biochemical imbalance in uncontrolled diabetes. People with diabetes are more susceptible to many other illnesses. For example, they are more likely to die of pneumonia or influenza than people who do not have diabetes. Type 1 diabetes can reduces life expectancy by 15 years and does cause premature death.