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November 1, 2011 at 8:09 AMComments: 6 Faves: 0

Today Is National Type 1 Diabetes Day!

By Jessica Corwin MPH RDN More Blogs by This Author

November 1st is National Type 1 Diabetes Day. While the celebration of a chronic disease that impacts the lives of 25.8 million Americans (8.3% of the population in total with type 1 and type 2 diabetes) may not be as uplifting as other holidays, there truly is reason to celebrate the incredibly strides being made in scientific research. Such research has not only greatly improved disease management for people living with type 1 diabetes, it is enabling the potential for treatment... something unheard of in years past. Before I dive into that topic, let’s first explore the basics of type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes Confusion

Type 1 diabetes mellitus is often confused with type 2 diabetes mellitus given the similarity of their names. However, major differences exist, primarily in the role your pancreas roles in blood sugar management. For now, let’s focus on type 1…

What Causes Type 1 Diabetes?

Despite common beliefs, type 1 diabetes is not linked with weight gain, but is the result of a faulty pancreas that has lost the ability to produce insulin. Type 1 is often referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes for this very reason. Some people may be born without this ability while others may not be diagnosed until their 30’s. Either way, the disease must be controlled by injecting artificial insulin into the body to help control blood sugar levels. Someone with type 1 must measure an appropriate amount of insulin based on the amount of carbohydrates they have consumed.

What Does Type 1 Diabetes Do?

Symptoms of this disease include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Drowsiness, lethargy
  • Sugar in urine
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Increased appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Fruity, sweet, or wine-like odor on breath
  • Heavy, labored breathing
  • Stupor, unconsciousness

How Is Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosed?

Diabetes may be diagnosed by testing your blood sugar levels. A healthy blood sugar level on an empty stomach will be within the range of 70-110 mg/dL. If you choose to test your blood before bed, it should be within 100-140 mg/dL. If your numbers are much lower (hypoglycemia) or higher (hyperglycemia), I encourage you to visit your health care professional to learn more about your numbers.

Diet for Type 1 Diabetes

In addition to taking insulin, those living with type 1 diabetes are able to better manage their disease by taking charge of their diet. Adhering to a balanced and nutritious diet with a limited and consistent carbohydrate intake, they're able to determine the amount of insulin needed and maintain a stable blood sugar level – thereby preventing diabetic complications such as blood vessel or nerve damage.

Progress in Health Care

What's so exciting on this national day of recognition is the fact that research has not only led to the creation of high-tech insulin pumps that deliver insulin without having to inject a needle every time, but researchers are also on the brink of offering an artificial pancreas to all type 1 diabetics! The artificial pancreas is something that's being referred to as the "most revolutionary development in diabetes since the discovery of insulin" and certainly something to celebrate. It has already been tested with success and developers are simply doing their best to jump through hoops of rules and regulations before being able to offer this to the diabetic population.

Diabetes type 1 and type 2, comprises a disease that is impacting millions of Americans, and I'm guessing there may be someone in your life that's living with one or the other... Thankfully, lifestyle changes make a positive difference for both types.

For more information on type 1 diabetes, visit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

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  • I had no idea that type 1 diabetes affected such a large percentage of the population! Thanks for all the info, Jessica. That artificial pancreas sure sounds promising :)

  • Thank you for recognizing and explaining type 1 diabetes. I have an overweight daughter with type one and its very frustrating explaining to people that her diabetes was not caused by her weight or anything she did. It is an unfortunate disease that strikes without warning or cause. It effects fat, skinny, tall, short, rich, poor...
    There are great strides in technology however the real solution is a cure.

  • @Laura, 8.3% of the population have diabetes in total, including both type 1 and type 2. Sorry for the confusion!

  • @Sue, you are absolutely right. I can certainly empathize with your situation as I hear this quite often myself and I know that people's assumptions can be painful, especially to young children!

    Thank-you for sharing your experience :)

  • My mom and I were just talking about Diabetes, I have a sister who found out she had it when she was 18/19 years old. She is now 43 and she has been taking insulin for around 24 years. She now wears a pump so she can administer as needed which is nice for her. Plus she is a rep for the Bayer diabetes testers. To my mom and I we were just thinking not much has changed for her (as in her diabetes is never going to go away!) It is just a way of life for her.

  • Thanks for sharing your story, Nancy. I have a friend with a similar experience and I remember how excited she was when she was finally able to get a pump. Truly a different lifestyle, but thankfully medical technology has helped to ease the lifestyle changes with incredible advances. Hopefully one day the artificial pancreas will be available to everyone, preventing the need for a pump at all!

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