Facing the Stigma behind Diabetes
Diabetes has long been misunderstood. The average person likely does not know what organs are affected by diabetes or the debilitating symptoms one faces before and after their diagnosis. It is time the general public better understands diabetes not only to end stigma but to understand the symptoms and risks of being undiagnosed.
In this article, we will learn more about diabetes, the different types, and how they affect one’s quality of life.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a term that describes a group of diseases that affect blood glucose regulation. There are four different types of diabetes. These include the following:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Gestational Diabetes
Diabetes affects the pancreas. The pancreas is located behind your stomach and in front of your spine. According to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the pancreas is approximately the size of your hand. Your pancreas is responsible for creating digestive enzymes. The pancreatic enzymes break down starches, sugars, and fats that we eat. Your incredible pancreas doesn’t stop there, it is also responsible for creating hormones to regulate your blood sugar levels and control your appetite!
What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes?
Although there are four types of diabetes, they all present similarly. In recent years, advocates have been urging doctors to better notice the signs. Many diabetics are wrongfully diagnosed or not diagnosed fast enough. Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis can result in coma, brain damage, and death.
Here are the symptoms you need to be aware of for yourself and your loved ones:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Flu-like symptoms (especially in children)
Only two forms of diabetes can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, there is no endocrine surgery that can reverse or repair the pancreas. Let’s take a look at each form of diabetes and how each one is managed:
Type 2 Diabetes
A type two diabetes diagnosis means that your body either resists insulin or doesn’t produce enough insulin. Type two diabetes is often successfully managed with medication, blood sugar monitoring, and lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Type 2 Diabetes and Prejudice:
Overweight people are more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than people with a healthy weight and fit lifestyle. The belief is that sugar is “bad” for you and contributes to your weight gain. Therefore, people wrongly believe diabetes is due to overconsumption of sugar. Again, there is no diabetes correlation to eating too much sugar, but there is a correlation between higher weight and type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes also means the pancreas produces little to no insulin; however, this condition is not affected by lifestyle. You cannot contract type 1 diabetes by being overweight, underweight, or anything in between. Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease, and because it is not derived from being overweight, it cannot be managed with diet and exercise, either.
Most type 1 diabetics are diagnosed as children or teens. The condition is managed through daily medication and blood sugar monitoring.
Prediabetics experience glucose intolerance. Prediabetes is often associated with weight and, if not properly treated, may lead to type 2 diabetes. It is possible to decrease elevated blood sugars that lead to prediabetes with lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise. If left untreated, one can become a type 2 diabetic within ten years.
Gestational diabetes uniquely affects pregnant women. Gestational diabetes could indicate a type 2 diabetes diagnosis later in life, but that is not always the case. Once diagnosed, the patient will be required to monitor blood sugar levels, a healthy diet, exercise, and more closely monitor the fetus through regular check-ups with their doctor. If blood sugars continue to rise, medication will be required to lower them. Gestational diabetes usually resolves a few days after the patient gives birth. If it does not go away, it is diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.
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