RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Twenty-nine million Americans have diabetes.
That means that one in 11 people will develop diabetes in the U.S. In the last decade, the number of cases jumped 50 percent.
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. Monday is World Diabetes Day. World Diabetes Day began in 1991 in an effort to draw attention to the alarming rise of diabetes cases throughout the world—there are 350 million people living with diabetes worldwide now. My 15-year-old daughter has type one diabetes and was diagnosed at age 5. My family and I have been living with diabetes for ten years.
1. What is diabetes? What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2?
Diabetes comes in two types. In Type 1 diabetes, the body no longer makes insulin. Insulin is essential to life—when we eat sugars (carbohydrates) we must have insulin in order to move the sugar from the bloodstream into our cells so that it can be used for energy.
In diabetes, a lack of insulin results in very high blood sugar levels—this can create a medical emergency—including coma and death. Type 1 diabetes is also known as “juvenile diabetes” as it is most commonly diagnosed early in life—typically either from three to six years old or in the early teen years.
By contrast, in Type 2 diabetes, our cells do not respond properly to insulin. Blood sugar levels rise and we become “insulin resistant.” Type 2 diabetes is most often associated with obesity. Type 2 diabetes accounts for the majority of diabetes cases in the US today.
2. What are the symptoms of diabetes?
In diabetes, you may have some of the following symptoms and most are due to high or low blood sugar levels and the dehydration that can be associated with abnormal blood sugar levels. These are the most common symptoms:
• Excessive thirst
• Excessive hunger
• Frequent urination
• Unexplained weight loss
3. How is diabetes treated?
In cases of Type 1 diabetes, insulin therapy is the cornerstone of treatment. These kids need insulin to survive. Insulin is delivered via injections several times a day or via an insulin pump.
In Type 2 diabetes, weight loss and diet can help. Some Type 2 patients must take oral pills to help control blood sugar and others also need insulin. Your doctor can help determine what is best for you.
4. What’s next in diabetes research? Can it be cured?
Diabetes has no cure. There have been lots of advances in the last several years. We are working towards an “artificial pancreas” where we are able to mimic the “closed loop” system that our body has.
A new device has recently been approved—it is an insulin pump as well as a continuous glucose monitor—ultimately systems like this will allow diabetics (particularly Type 1 diabetics) to lead normal lives. As a parent of a child with Type 1 diabetes, I am hopeful for a cure in her lifetime.