Did you know that November is Diabetes Awareness Month? According to the CDC, more than 1 out of every 10 Americans has diabetes. So, even if you don’t have it yourself, chances are good that someone close to you does. However, not everyone fully grasps what diabetes is and understands the two forms it can take.
To help bring awareness to this disease, it is important to know the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. By educating ourselves, we can be more supportive and understanding of loved ones who live with the disease.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is caused when there is either a lack of the hormone insulin (Type 1 Diabetes) or when the body becomes resistant to insulin (Type 2 Diabetes). Insulin is important because it helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
When you eat, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, a simple sugar, which enters your bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone that helps move the sugar from your blood into your cells to be used as energy.
When your body struggles to make or absorb insulin, the sugar has nowhere to go, and it builds up in your bloodstream—also referred to as having high blood sugar. If left untreated, high blood sugar levels can lead to serious health complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, and kidney failure.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is caused by an auto-immune disorder where the body attacks and destroys healthy B-cells in the pancreas. These B-cells are responsible for producing insulin, but over time, the body continuously destroys them to the point where the pancreas can no longer produce the insulin needed to properly regulate blood sugar levels.
Type 1 diabetes typically starts in childhood or adolescence and can come on suddenly within days or weeks. Currently, there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes, and it can only be managed through an insulin pump or insulin injections and lifestyle changes. However, recent clinical trials that have treated some patients with Type 1 diabetes have shown that they might be able to start producing insulin again naturally.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body does not use insulin properly and becomes resistant to it, causing glucose to build up in the bloodstream. Many people with type 2 diabetes do not even know they have it because early symptoms can be mild, and the disease is very slow to come on, often taking years.
Type 2 diabetes is caused by poor lifestyle and diet choices, such as being sedentary and eating mostly unhealthy foods. Symptoms can also be managed with medication or insulin, but this type can be reversed by adopting a regularly active lifestyle and eating a healthy diet.
Diabetes can be a difficult and frustrating disease to live with, so if you have loved ones who manage it every day, they will appreciate your patience and care. Give encouragement for a healthier lifestyle when appropriate, give help when needed, and be understanding and supportive in their struggle.