November is national Diabetes month, but unlike cancer, it is not as well known. I believe that the reason for this is that if you were to make each disease a character, they would look like this: Cancer would be the scary character from the movie Scream. It has always looked worse and people are aware that they need to avoid it at all costs. Cancer is the aggressive Character and normally requires drastic measure to make sure that you are far, far away from it and you never know when it is going to return to create havoc again. Everyone knows what Cancer is and what it does.
Diabetes on the other hand is a little sneakier, it can create just as much havoc in the body if it is left untreated and cause long-term complications. . Long term effects can be just as detrimental to our health. Just like James P. Sullivan from the movie Monsters Inc. While he appear to be more on the cute side of things, he can turn your dreams into nightmares and scare the living daylights out of you! Diabetes can go by undetected for a long period of time, but this does not mean that it is not waiting behind the door to jump out at you when you least expect it.
So what is diabetes and what are the signs that we have to look for?
Diabetes is a disease that affects the way that the body uses glucose in the blood. What does this mean exactly? When we eat food, our bodies break it up into glucose and other nutrients that we need for our body to function. Sort of like providing petrol, oil and water so that your car can run. It cannot run without these ingredients, but if you get water in your petrol tank, your engine is not going to run. This is that same as in the body. Our cells require glucose to operate, it is a key ingredient and our bodies will not operate without it. The pancreas is responsible for making a hormone called insulin which it releases into the blood stream. Insulin works like a remote that opens the door to all our cells and lets the glucose in. Without the remote, the glucose cannot get through the door. If it cannot get into the cells, it remains in the blood stream, creating high blood sugar levels and this is what cause the serious health problems that go with Diabetes.
Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
Both type 1 and type 2 Diabetes are responsible for causing the blood sugar levels to become higher than normal.
This is caused when the immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. If you have type 1 diabetes, you will need insulin to regulate your blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes will require lifelong treatment with insulin injections and blood sugar will need to be monitored regularly.
A person with type 2 diabetes, still produces insulin, but for some reason, the body does not respond to it like it should. This causes the glucose to have difficulty in entering the cells to supply energy. When the blood sugar levels rise, the body produces even more insulin to try and open the doors to the cells. Initially, this may not be a big problem, but over time the pancreas will wear out and may not be able to produce enough insulin to keep the blood sugar levels normal.
If blood sugar levels remain high, this is a sure sign of type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can often be treated with diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. Some patients may require diabetic medication to control their blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is different from people who suffer from insulin resistance.
What to look out for?
There are 4 main T’s in Diabetes
- TOILET – if your child needs to wee a lot, or if they all of a sudden start wetting their bed.
- TIRED – We are all tired, but if they are feeling really tired with no apparent reason
- THIRSTY – Always thirsty, even when they are drinking a lot
- THINNER – unexplained weight loss
Other symptoms may be blurred vision, increased hunger and some girls may even suffer from regular yeast infections or increased facial and body hair growth. Polycystic ovarian cysts are also sometimes associated with diabetes, this is because insulin resistance. (Polycystic ovarian cysts are a hormone problem that cause the ovaries to become enlarged and develop cysts.) High blood pressure is another symptom to be aware of. Type 1 diabetes symptoms will develop rapidly while Type 2 may develop a lot slower and over a gradual period of time.
Who is at risk?
Diabetes does not discriminate, between age, sex and race. Although there are curtain cultural groups that may be more at risk than others, it is anyone’s game. People who are overweight are often susceptible to diabetes, because the excess fat makes it harder for the cells to respond to insulin. People with a family history of diabetes often have a higher risk of developing diabetes. Children going through puberty can also have a higher risk of diabetes due to the rise in hormones.
Food and sugar will not cause diabetes if you are eating a healthy balanced diet. The key is to put into your body what you need as opposed to what you want. Eating more than your body requires will put you at risk of being overweight and this could have a diabetic effect on your body. Sugar does not cause high blood sugar levels. Sugar only contains 4 calories per gram and it is converted quickly in your body, unlike fat. Sugar is a completely natural source of energy and our bodies need it in moderation. Watch out for processed foods and too many treats like fizzy drinks, cakes etc. In a slightly lazy society, exercise is essential to avoid diabetes. Exercise helps increase the body’s response to insulin, and helps it burn more calories.
Sadly diabetes is on the rise and we need to keep an eye out for it, especially in young children and babies. Often it is tricky to detect as the symptoms are often confused with other illnesses, and our children may go for a period of time undiagnosed. The bottom line is that diabetes is not difficult to check for, it is a simple finger prick test in which the blood is analysed to check the blood glucose levels. So if you are unsure, rather have your doctor check.
The danger is that if it is undetected, there are a few things that can cause serious problems. There is a huge increase in the risk of serious infections due to sores that don’t heal. There is always a risk of a diabetic coma and there is a high risk of diabetic ketoacidosis. This is when due to a lack of insulin, the body begins to break down other tissues for energy, which can lead to the production of toxic chemicals called ketones. In turn the body becomes acidic due to the build-up of DKA. Diabetic ketoacidosis if incredibly dangerous, but can be prevented if diabetes is diagnosed and managed effectively.
Living with diabetes is a challenge for anyone, but kids often find it difficult to deal with. Children may not understand what is going on and why they need to have medicine and blood tests. This can be very scary and overwhelming for them.
Saying this, diabetes is not a death sentence, if you eat a healthy diet, exercise, monitor blood sugar levels regularly and take insulin it can be controlled.
So grab your friends and family and show us your support.
After you get your entry.
Meet us at the Durban Amphitheatre, Bay of plenty
29th November, please save the date.
Remember that you don’t have to be diabetic to participate. Things will proceed from 8.00-2.00. There will be plenty for you to do.
To secure your spot, drop us a mail
Or visit the site for more detail.
Here is a Mom’s story about her Type 1 Diabetic daughter
WRITTEN BY Robyn Gertenbach:
We are lucky – God has blessed us with a happy, well balanced beautiful child, who just happens to have diabetes. Hannah is an inspiration to all those who meet her. She has helped other children, who have been diagnosed, in realising that it is not the end of the world…. It’s just the beginning of a new one.
Hannah hopes to get involved with diabetes education as she gets older. There are so many misconceptions around this condition and she has set life goals to change the stigma associated with T1D! (type 1 diabetes)
As a mother who has suffered and conquered the journey here is my advice:
To any mother who has fears regarding their children’s health always:
- Trust your instincts
- Never allow your child to feel any different to their friends (this sometimes requires the ‘put on your big girl panties’ prep talk)
- Reach out to other mothers who are in similar situations, whether it is a Facebook support group or a friend who knows a friend
- Know that – you will get through it! It may be terrifying in the beginning….. But it does get easier
- Knowledge is power – know what to do, what to eat, when to allow ‘cheats’ and most importantly…… How to give your child the security, independence and compassion they need to function in their ‘new reality’.
When chatting to Robyn she said she could write a book about the situations, emotions and changes that have had to be made. The bottom line is, as Hannah said, it is not the end of the world…It’s just the beginning of a new one.
That just touched my heart in so many ways. What a beautiful child.
Having a child with diabetes may seem overwhelming, but you are not alone, there are so many organizations that provide fantastic support advice and help. Diabetes South Africa is a wonderful example. www.diabetessa.org.za. Robyn is happy to help anyone who is concerned or traveling the same journey. Please contact me and I will happily put you in touch.
Hope to see you all at the walk!