Diabetes Awareness Month is a time for individuals and organizations to come together to spread awareness about diabetes. While most information out there is centered on type 2 diabetes, there is little discussion surrounding type 1 diabetes. While both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are managed in similar ways (i.e. maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing your medication, and getting regular health checkups), there are some key differences between them. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which means it’s caused when your own immune system attacks the part of the pancreas responsible for producing insulin: the islet cells (or also known as the pancreatic beta cells). This disease requires monitoring your blood sugar and administering multiple daily insulin injections with a pen, syringe, or pump. With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use it well—and your body’s cells can’t use glucose for the energy it needs. When glucose stays in your blood, it can cause serious health problems such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease. In the case of type 2 diabetes, you may be able to manage your diabetes with healthy eating and being active, or your doctor may prescribe insulin, other injectable medications, or oral diabetes medicines to help manage your blood sugar and avoid complications.
To get a fuller picture of how a person with type 1 diabetes manages their condition, Jake Clark, an employee of Medical Center in the Plant Ops Department, agreed to share his story for Diabetes Awareness Month. Jake shared that he discovered he had type 1 diabetes when he was 11 years old, and he realized that something was wrong with his health while attending church. “I realized something was wrong when we would go to church on Sundays- I go to First Baptist, and we have those big ol’ white steps to get into the church, and I would walk up the first five or six steps and feel like I had just run a marathon. I was sweating like crazy, and when I would get to the top, I’d fall asleep during service because I was so tired and drained out. Luckily, whenever that started happening- it went on for about two or three weeks- my mother took me to the doctor and Jeff [Doctor Jeffery Bush] sent me straight to Birmingham right after that, and that’s when I figured out I had diabetes.” Jake says that managing diabetes isn’t like what people assume it is. “A lot of people think you need to eat sugar-free stuff, and while it’s good to limit your sugar, eating sugar-free products really isn’t that good for you. With all the added stuff they put in those foods, they end up being some of the worst stuff you can eat. What I do is I wake up, eat two sausage dogs from Wal-Mart, check my blood sugar and take my insulin, come to work, eat a few snacks, and do the same thing all day. I take shots about three to four times a day.” Jake shares that his activity level has made it difficult to wear an insulin pump, which is a small computerized device that delivers insulin through a thin tube that goes under your skin. The device releases insulin almost the way your body naturally would with a steady flow throughout the day and night, called basal insulin, and an extra dose at mealtime, called a bolus, to handle rising blood sugar from the food you eat. “I used to wear an insulin pump for maybe three or four years while I was in high school, but whenever I played sports- I was in football and baseball- I would sweat to the point where the pump wouldn’t stick on my arm, so I got tired of having to deal with that and I felt like Mom and Dad were just wasting their money because we’d put one on and it was supposed to last for two weeks, and it would fall off the day after we would put it on, no matter what we’d wrap on it to keep it on there.” When asked how he got used to giving himself multiple injections a day, Jake shares that it did take some getting used to, especially since he was leery of shots before he was diagnosed with diabetes. “It took some getting used to. Before I wasn’t a big fan of shots- Mom would have to hold me down to get a flu shot, but the older I got, the more I realized, hey, you’ve got to do this if you want to be here longer than say, thirty or forty.” Jake says that it’s important to remain compliant when living with diabetes, whether it is type one or type two diabetes so that you live a normal, healthy life. “I wouldn’t want to be the one to go out knowing that I could have done something to prevent it.” As Jake knows all too well, managing diabetes is important year-round, not just in the month of November. 34.2 million Americans—just over 1 in 10—have diabetes. If you are one of those people, make sure you are following up regularly with your primary care provider so that they can help you manage your condition. If you are looking for a primary care provider who can help you manage your health, the Medical Center Barbour Family Care Clinics are accepting new patients in our Eufaula, Louisville, and Hurtsboro locations. And if your diabetes has caused you to suffer from chronic, non-healing wounds, be sure to reach out to your primary care provider to schedule an appointment with our MCB Wound Care Clinic! To make an appointment with one of our compassionate providers at the MCB Family Care Clinics, simply call 334-688-7410 today and take your health into your own hands!