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Health awareness: diabetes

World Diabetes Day is on Nov. 14. Don the grey ribbon with a drop of red in support of the 30 million Americans that prick their fingers every morning and stray from the sugary temptations around them because they live with diabetes.

World Diabetes Day began with the United Nations in 2006. The campaign created was in response to the diabetes pandemic that was set to overwhelm healthcare resources everywhere. The symbol of the blue circle was created for diabetes awareness to symbolize life, health and unity.

What is Diabetes?

Well, there’s Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational diabetes. In every case of diabetes, there is inability to produce or process the hormone insulin, which is a hormone that the body needs to get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. Diabetes becomes a game of monitoring blood sugar levels.

Type 1 Diabetes is diagnosed by the body’s inability to produce insulin at all. 40,000 Americans are diagnosed every year. There is a common misconception in the medical community that Type 1 diabetes is strictly diagnosed in early childhood. Although it is commonly diagnosed in children, the onset of Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age.

Treatment requires taking insulin through injections to substitute the lack thereof and heavily monitoring blood sugar. Strict diet and exercise are recommended by the American Diabetes Association. Lots of secondary complications can come with Type 1 Diabetes, most commonly skin conditions and eyesight complications. If you’re noticing symptoms in your body like feeling very thirsty or hungry despite eating, frequent urination, blurry vision or weight loss, don’t be afraid to mention it to your doctor.

Type 2 Diabetes is fairly common, making up roughly 90% of the 30 million with Diabetes. In this case, the body makes insulin, but does not use insulin properly.

Type 2 diabetes is fairly common, making up roughly 90% of the 30 million with diabetes. In this case, the body makes insulin, but does not use insulin properly. Medication prescribed to those with Type 2 works by lowering glucose production in the liver and improving sensitivity to insulin so that insulin is used more effectively. However, heavily monitoring diet, specifically sugar intake, is usually enough to manage Type 2 diabetes as long as it is accompanied by regular exercise.

Symptoms in Type 2 diabetes can often be so mild that they go unnoticed. Keep an eye out for the same symptoms accompanying Type 1 diabetes, but a tingling sensation or numbness in the extremities is unique to Type 2 diabetes. Again, don’t just trust me! Ask your doctor if you suspect something might be up with your body.

In both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, genetic predisposition is a huge factor, but environment is as well. Giving your body the right nutrients is important, especially in the early years of development. Although, it could come down to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Type 1 diabetes has been linked to more occurrences in colder climates.

What about Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is in a different category. Gestational diabetes comes on during pregnancy. It can happen when a pregnant body is not able to make and use all of the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Often, it is not found until rather late — usually 24 to 28 weeks into the pregnancy.

How does this affect the fetus? As the pregnant body has the pancreas working overtime to produce insulin, the blood glucose levels do not change. While insulin does not cross the placenta, glucose does. The fetus does not need all of the extra energy in the glucose, so it is stored as fat. Potential problems for the future child include being at risk for obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

The cause of gestational diabetes is still unknown, but it happens to roughly 10% of pregnancies. Like the other types, monitoring blood sugar levels is very important, and diet and exercise aid in managing blood sugar levels.

Diabetes Awareness

Before Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, prediabetes can often be spotted during annual blood work checkup. Prediabetes is signaled by high blood sugar levels, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. Receiving a diagnosis of prediabetes does not mean you will develop Type 2. Healthy diet and regular exercise can reverse prediabetes.

Although living with diabetes is incredibly challenging, those with diabetes can live long and happy lives as long as the treatment plan is followed closely.

Kirsten Magas is a fourth-year English major with minors in creative writing and journalism. KM867219@wcupa.edu

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