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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Diabetes: Not So Sweet

Diabetes is an increasing topic of interest in the news. This is mainly because it has become an epidemic that is costing our nation billions of dollars a year. However, many people are unaware of exactly what diabetes is. There are actually two different types of diabetes. While they share the same name they are quite different. 
Type II Diabetes is the more common and well known form. While genetics play a role in contributing to Type II, typically the disease develops due to weight gain, inactivity and stress. Changing lifestyle habits can help prevent and in some cases reverse the disease. Our body uses glucose, a type of sugar, from the food we eat to produce energy. Insulin acts like a key which allows the sugar to move from the bloodstream into the body cells. Insulin doesn't work the way in should in Type II Diabetics. After a while they may also become unable to produce enough insulin. The disease is treated with either oral medications or insulin. 
Type I Diabetes is an autoimmune disease. The body destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Type I is a genetic disease, but there is also at least one environmental factor required to trigger the disease. Scientists are still researching exactly what those triggers may be. A major difference between the two types of diabetes is that Type I Diabetics require insulin either given with injections or an insulin pump; oral medications will not suffice. Also, Type I is not reversible. While it is sometimes referred to as Juvenile Diabetes it can not be outgrown. It is crucial to diagnose Type I Diabetes as early as possible. Symptoms to look for include the following:
Excessive thirst
Excessive urination
Weight loss
Flu like symptoms
Fruity breath
All diabetics can have numerous potential health problems including kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage and heart disease. These complications can be avoided by maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, eating right, exercising and working closely with a diabetes team. 
If you suspect that either yourself or your child has diabetes seek the advice of your doctor immediately. 
Jennifer is the mother of a Type I Diabetic 4 year old boy who was diagnosed at 19 months of age. She works hard to keep her son's blood sugar under control while making sure he has a "normal" childhood. Look for more Diabetes posts from her in the future.  You can feel free to comment or send her an email at Jennifer@chestercountymoms.com

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