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Understanding Type 1 Diabetes

Monday, November 14, 2016

Since November is National Diabetes month, it is a good time to raise awareness about this condition which affects 29.1 million Americans, about 5% of whom have Type 1 diabetes.  Type 1 diabetes is best described as an autoimmune disorder where the persons own body destroys the pancreatic beta cells, the very cells that make insulin.  Without insulin to enable glucose to move from the blood into the body’s cells, blood sugars are high.

Although 70% of the cases of Type 1 diabetes are diagnosed before age 30, the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes can be made at any age.  Type 1 diabetes is more common in children. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) more than 18,000 young people under the age of 20 years are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes every year.

The goal for these individuals is to maintain their blood sugar as near normal as possible to lower the complications associated with high blood sugar (please note; there are different blood sugar goals depending on the age of the person).   This can be a challenge for children and they need the active involvement of parents and family.  A healthy lifestyle that includes good food choices and exercise is a must, along with age appropriate self-management of the condition.  We have come a long way with the tools available to help the individual with this task, just ask anyone who was diagnosed with diabetes 50, 60 or 70 years ago!  Health Care Providers (HCP) have long acting, rapid acting, fast acting and intermediate acting insulin.  Sliding scales are sliding away with carbohydrate counting stepping in.  I remember the days before glucometers when sugar levels were tested with a special stick dipped in the patients’ urine.  We now have a wide selection of glucometers. They come in many shapes and sizes, a range of prices, some talk, some have graphs, some newer ones have touch screens and all have the capability of being downloaded into a computer or to your phone.  The number of diabetics using insulin pumps is growing every day with the newest advancement being the addition of a sensor that will tell the individual if their sugar is on the way up or down.  This technology uses interstitial glucose readings, not blood sugar readings.   Lastly, exchange diets have been replaced with a new term, consistent carbohydrates.  

How do you sift through all of this information if you’re a newly diagnosed diabetic and come up with a self-management plan that fits your lifestyle? If you have been diabetic any number of years, are you taking advantage of as many of these new tools as possible to improve the self-management of your diabetes?  The answer to these questions; work with your HCP, get educated and develop a team that you can call on for assistance.  Your team should include your primary care physician, an endocrinologist, and a certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian. Your team may also include a podiatrist, ophthalmologist, nephrologist, dental professional and mental health professional.  

Don’t turn your back on diabetes. Whether you are the parent of a child who is diabetic, an adolescent or an adult; if you have been diabetic many years or are newly diagnosed, stay educated and make sure you have the most current information and tools to do what one patient said, “learn to think like a pancreas”.  To find the certified diabetes educator and recognized diabetes program closest to you, go to the American Association of Diabetes Educators website.

The Diabetes Self-Management Program at Noyes Health is recognized by the American Association of Diabetes and is staffed with an RN CDE and RN Health Educator. The program is available in Geneseo, Dansville, Hornell and four area Health Care Provider offices.  Call 335-4355 for additional information.  

Nancy M. Johnsen RN, CDE is a Certified Diabetes Educator and Community Health Education Coordinator and Coordinator of the Diabetes Education Program at Noyes Health.

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