Diabetes, Any Type: Are We Really So Different?

Diabetes, Any Type: Are We Really So Different?

I ask this question because I hear the pain of people who live with types of diabetes other than Type 2. I think it’s a good question to explore. First, it gives me a chance to look into each of the different types. Second, it offers the opportunity to see where we have differences. Third, we can close the gap between our differences to acknowledge how similar we really are.

Types of Diabetes

Gestational Diabetes: diabetes during pregnancy, usually resolves when pregnancy ends.

Type 1 Diabetes: previously called juvenile (child) onset, typically people under 25 years of age, pancreas does not produce insulin due to some insult, requires insulin injections to live.

Type 2 Diabetes: often seen in ((cough, cough)) older adults, typically people over 25 years of age, may be associated with overweight or obesity, has a genetic component, may run in families, pancreas produces insulin but the body can’t use it effectively, pancreas eventually stops producing insulin.

What are the differences?

Obviously there are differences in how each of these diabetes types presents. Also in how they are treated.

Type 1 diabetes requires insulin. Period. The pancreas doesn’t function. Some people with diabetes refer to their pancreas as being ‘dead.’ The first time I heard that, it sounded harsh. The more I learned, the more I had to admit, it was an accurate description. I have further been able to glimpse into the life of a parent whose child has type 1 thereby helping me to understand on a small scale what the child/teen/young adult lives with. From the seat I sit in, I could never truly understand. It is different than the type 2 I live with. Imagine giving your small baby a needle once, twice a day, knowing your baby will cry, hurt. You would do it because you have to, because it is life saving. But that can’t be easy. Very complex.

Gestational diabetes I understand. It usually only lasts a short time. Short in the sense that pregnancy doesn’t last forever. At the time of delivery, it may be gone forever. It may require a special diet to eat while pregnant. It is usually recommended that some gentle exercise like walking be started. For some women, it may require insulin for a short period of time but that usually ends when the baby is born. For many women, this type of diabetes ends at delivery.

Type 2 diabetes is different than both type 1 and gestational diabetes. It is considered primarily a disease of lifestyle, although I’m not sure I totally agree with that. As stated, type 2 for the most part is in the population over 25 years of age. This diabetes can be delayed by adhering to diet and exercise. It may or may not eventually require medication. It is progressive.

What are the similarities?

  • All three types may need medication.
  • All three types may/do need insulin.
  • All three types are recommended to have an exercise component.
  • All three types carry with them the potential for emotional scars.
  • All three types may leave its people with feelings of self doubt.
  • All three types carry some emotional fragility.
  • All three types have a very strong potential for associated health complications.
  • All three types require routines.
  • All three types require supportive teams of medical professionals to ensure the best outcomes.
  • All three types need peers to help make the bad days better.

Because we have so much in common, I don’t always understand the division among us. The division that causes us to be competitive over which type is worse. Other times, I totally get it. With 90% of people with diabetes having type 2, health promoters are universally targeting health messaging towards prevention, early detection and the avoidance of type 2. This begs the question…with so much attention going towards type 2, does that mean the research dollars are going towards type 2? Does this mean that Type 1 is moving into the background? I don’t have answers to either of these questions. I think the health promotion messaging is well meaning. There are ways for many people to prevent type 2 diabetes. I believe there is no bad intent to leave type 1 or other types of diabetes behind, to forget about them but I do understand and recognize the pain of those saying “What about me?”

From the chair I sit in, it is not a competition. Each type of diabetes is unique to the person who has it. With that, carries the unique struggles for the person involved. One type of diabetes is not better or worse than another. Many are successful and living healthy with their diabetes. Others are struggling.

We need to stay united and learn about each other, move away from the comparisons about which is worse because we are not the same, but we are not so different either.

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