Thursday, September 22, 2011

Diabetes 101

For those not already experts on the flavors of diabetes, let me provide a quick primer. Type 1 and Type 2 are really two different diseases. They both have the result of abnormally high levels of blood glucose. That causes lots of problems that can kill you either sooner or later. There are 2 ways those levels can get high and that pretty much defines the difference between Type 1 and 2. Your pancreas creates the insulin that allows your body to use the glucose. This action happens in cells that can become resistant to insulin. A Type 1 has a pancreas that's not producing enough insulin. A Type 2 has cells that are resistant to insulin. Either way blood sugar(glucose) goes up.

Type 2 is far more common. It can be acquired through unhealthy lifestyle. And it can be controlled with medications or often reversed by discontinuing the eating of crap. Type 1 is genetic. It's an autoimmune disease that has the body attacking it's own pancreas, killing the production of insulin. It's universally believed to be irreversible. People with Type 1 inject insulin constantly to prevent deadly blood glucose levels. The majority of Type 1's are kids, who at a certain age, quickly lose their capacity to produce insulin. A recent development is the emergence of a variation of Type 1 that affects adults over 35. It's thought to be genetic, but possibly triggered by stress and lousy diet and exercise. This variation is being called Latent (or Late-onset) Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults. LADA takes longer to kill the pancreas than the juvenile version of Type 1. It can be 6 years between onset and when the insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas are so far gone that shots of insulin (or a pump) are necessary. Diet, exercise, medications, and everything that works for a Type 2 will work for a while with LADA, but with diminishing returns.

That's all terribly over-simplified. But it will suffice as a set of terms to help decipher my story.

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