Opinion: Living with diabetes can be tough

Alexandria_RothBy Alexandria Roth.

Being a Type I Diabetic for eight and a half years has introduced me to more judgment and criticism than one would think possible. I’d like to clear up some common misconceptions about diabetes.

There are three types of diabetes: Type I, Type II, and Gestational. Type I is most commonly found in children and adolescents, but has on rare occasion occurred in adults. It is a chronic condition where the pancreas produces very little or no insulin.

Insulin is a hormone needed to digest food and convert sugar into energy. When there is no insulin, sugar stays in the bloodstream and can be life threatening if left untreated.

Type I Diabetes can be caused by one of three things: the body attacks the immune system and destroys certain pancreatic cells, inherited genetically, or a virus attacks your body causing it to over-protect you, killing pancreatic cells. A Type I Diabetic does not produce any insulin and is insulin-dependent. There is no cure for Type I Diabetes. It is not caused by eating too much sugar or not exercising.

Type II Diabetes can be caused by obesity, inactivity, or inherited genetically. There are also unknown causes of Type II Diabetes. Type II Diabetics still produce insulin although it may be resisted by their body or not enough. They can control their diabetes with proper exercise, diet, and if needed insulin or oral medication.

The symptoms of Type I Diabetes include: weakness, extreme thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, insomnia, nausea, irritability, heat intolerance, heavy or labored breathing, dizziness, constant hunger, blurred vision, increased sweating, fatigue, and vomiting.

Treatment options include insulin shots or insulin provided via a pump. In rare cases Type I can be temporarily cured by a pancreas or islet cell transplant. The transplants are difficult procedures and are very costly so few diabetics have them. Another part of treatment is poking their finger to test their blood glucose level. This has to be done, on average, four to six times daily.

Long term effects of uncontrolled Type I diabetes are: kidney damage (Nephropathy), oxygen deficiency, circulatory system failure, nervous damage (Neuropathy), thyroid problems, eye damage/blindness, feet damage, osteoporosis, diabetic ketoacidosis, diabetic coma, and even death.

As a diabetic I can’t drink ‘regular’ pop. I can only drink diet pop unless my blood sugar is low. And it never fails that someone tells me, “you’re poisoning yourself,” “you’re going to get cancer,” or “diet pop is so much worse for you than regular pop.” I’m sorry that my pancreas doesn’t function normally like yours so I can’t sit back and chug down a couple Mountain Dews.

All day, every day I have to worry about being a diabetic. I have to worry about whether the piece of pizza I ate is going to make my blood sugar spike, if the stress of my classes is going to make my sugar go crazy, or even if walking the stairs to my apartment is going to make me go low. Being low makes me shaky, crabby, weak, and I want to eat anything and everything I can, which will make my blood sugar go too high. If my blood sugar is too high I will be tired, have cottonmouth, drink a lot of fluids, urinate a lot, and not be able to focus.

I wear an insulin pump and that causes even more of a headache. I have to make sure I constantly have the necessary items to replace the infusion site if needed. If the tubing gets caught on a door handle and rips my site out, I have to be pricked again by yet another needle. If my cartridge runs out of insulin it dings and vibrates every 3 minutes until I completely reset and refill it. Have you ever heard an insulin pump? They are the most annoying contraption ever. It should be loud and easily heard though because it is my life. If I were disconnected from my pump for longer than a few hours I would get very sick and end up in the hospital for diabetic ketoacidosis.

Whenever I prick my finger in front of people, they ask me, “Doesn’t that hurt?” I usually reply with, “I’m used to it,” which means YES IT HURTS, but you have to get over it being a diabetic. My fingers can be sore and are absolutely ugly. The callouses and torn skin are disgusting. No amount of lotion can fix the problems from pricking my fingers.

So before you go to judge someone who says they are a diabetic, think about what their life involves. It isn’t easy and it is very expensive. Having Type I Diabetes is a constant struggle trying to get control and feel good.

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