Everything You Wish Your Friends and Family Knew About Diabetes
You’ve spoken, and we’ve listened: you’re sick of Type 1 and Type 2 being thought of as the same disease. With their vast intricacies, it’s difficult when friends and family members don’t acknowledge or understand your condition. And lumping types together can be downright confusing. Further, when we don’t recognize the different types, it’s a way of ignoring the personal struggle a person goes through when combatting their disease.
That being said, we’re going to do our best to clear up some misconceptions for anyone who might be confused, and to address some common generalizations people make about diabetes.
“Everyone who has diabetes takes insulin.”
People with Type 1 diabetes are insulin dependent. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system destroys insulin-producing beta cells. These cells are crucial to the conversion of glucose to energy. Instead of being converted, glucose builds up and causes excessively high blood sugar.
People with Type 2 diabetes may need insulin as the disease worsens. They typically begin with a low sensitivity to insulin, meaning their bodies don’t process insulin correctly. Because the body struggles to respond to insulin, it produces more to compensate, which adequately lowers blood sugar. Over time, the strain of the excess production burns out beta cells, and the body becomes insulin resistant. At this point, it’s not possible for blood glucose levels to be controlled without the use of insulin.
“Diabetes is a disease you get when you eat too much sugar.”
Neither Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes are caused by sugar consumption alone. As previously stated, Type 1 is an autoimmune disease. The exact origin is unknown, but studies suggest that it is caused by a combination of genetics and a variety of environmental triggers that activate these genes (check out this article for a theory recently posited by researchers).
While Type 2 is commonly associated with being overweight (sugar can definitely contribute to weight gain) and a sedentary lifestyle, there are many other risk factors, including family history, which predisposes an individual to developing the disease. Put simply, there are many overweight people who do not have Type 2 diabetes, and many people (nearly 20%) with Type 2 diabetes who are a healthy weight.
The takeaway: Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are much more complicated than having one single culprit.