Imagine that someone's drawn a circle on a piece of paper and handed it to you. Now imagine that you don't know anything about basic geometry — or even what a circle is. Now imagine that you're being asked to calculate the circumference, only you don't know how, and no one's explaining it to you. Sounds hard, doesn't it?
Managing a lifelong condition like diabetes works the same way. Without the proper information, it's a daunting challenge. Having an imposed regimen helps, but a better understanding of what's happening and why your body is reacting the way it is will help you approach the problem more effectively and will help your physicians create better care programs for you or your loved one.
Diabetes is manageable with proper health and nutrition, so neither your life nor the lives of your loved ones need to be defined by diabetes. Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are characterised by higher than normal blood sugar levels, but they're different in how they're caused and how they develop. Understanding the differences between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes will prepare to tackle diabetes, should you ever have to.
Type 1 Diabetes
If you have a parent or a sibling with type 1 diabetes — formerly called juvenile or early-onset diabetes — you may be at risk for the disease, even if you aren't showing any signs or symptoms. Over time, the body attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, stopping its ability to produce insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. After diagnosis, people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin via several injections a day or via an insulin pump.
Hypoglycaemic episodes — periods of low blood sugar — are also more common with type 1 diabetes. Hypoglycaemia can progress quickly and should be treated immediately. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends taking glucose tablets or gels, eating candy, drinking juice or injecting a hormone called glucagon to bring your blood sugar quickly back to a safe level. Family members of people with type 1 diabetes should know how and when to inject glucagon to prevent the complications of hypoglycaemia, which can include the loss of consciousness, coma and, in severe cases, death.
Although there is no known cure for type 1 diabetes, with careful management, smart lifestyle choices and technological developments, people with type 1 are able to live fulfilling, healthy lives.
Type 2 Diabetes
According to the ADA, type 1 diabetes affects only 5 percent of all people who have diabetes. The remaining 95 percent have type 2 diabetes, which develops over time.
With type 2 diabetes, your body's cells aren't as sensitive to insulin, so your pancreas has to make more insulin to control your blood sugar levels. This is known as insulin resistance. Over time, elevated blood sugar levels can damage your body's tissues, causing complications, such as diabetic neuropathy, damaged blood vessels, kidney disease and vision loss.
Episodes of hypoglycaemia can also occur with type 2 diabetes. These episodes can be caused by some diabetes medications, taking too much insulin or from not eating enough of certain foods.
Keeping Both Under Control
The good news is that keeping your blood sugar well-managed is now easier than ever. Through medications, diet and exercise as well as glucose monitoring, managing type 1 and type 2 diabetes doesn't have to feel impossible. Glucose monitoring, in particular, will arm you with the knowledge about your disease and can help you manage any complications.
New technologies are changing the process of diabetes management — for type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes — across the world. For instance, wearable continuous glucose monitors make diabetes care easier by providing you with real-time information about your glucose levels, which can help you make smart decisions about your health throughout your day.