In the DOC (Diabetes Online Community) there is a fierce argument about renaming either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. There are many similarities between the two types, however it is the differences some seem to find offensive.
Briefly here is an overview of the differences:
Type 1 diabetes is caused by an overreaction of the immune system to the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The immune system is (somehow) triggered to kill the cells. Therefore, in type 1s they produce no insulin at all and must take insulin externally through multiple daily injections (MDI) or insulin pumps. Because the reasons for why the immune system does this is unknown, type 1 cannot be prevented.
Type 2 diabetes has several causes, some of which can be controlled. Genetics, which no one can control, is one component of how type 2 is developed. Other components include physical activity level, obesity, age (it is more common in older adults), and eating habits. Type 2 is an insulin deficiency (basically). One of two things is happening: there is either less insulin being produced so it's not enough or there is plenty of insulin being produced, but the cells are resistant to it (this is the simplistic explanation). There are others, of course, but these are the ones most important for this discussion.
In the DOC, there are those type 1 diabetics who feel they are unfairly judged about their illness because of confusion between the two types of diabetes. Because of this, they would like a renaming of the two diseases to bring about more obvious distinction between them. I am going to tell you my opinion and why. I encourage others to share their ideas, however just remember these are opinions - no one is right or wrong. I also don't tolerate "bashing" of any sort, so comments will be deleted if I interpret them as offensive. My blog, my rules. :o) Let's get started.
In my almost 21 years as a diabetic, I knew there were different kinds. It never occurred to me to look at some and think "they brought this on themselves - it's all their fault." In my opinion, diabetes is diabetes. When you get down to the very (very, very) basic fundamentals of what diabetes is, I see us all as the same. Diabetes is hyperglycemia (higher than normal blood glucose levels). Whether type 1, type 2, LADA, gestational, whatever we all struggle with elevated blood sugars. If we didn't, we wouldn't be diabetic. In some, their "high" blood sugars might be a 140 mg/dL fasting (no food) glucose reading. In others, like myself this morning, my fasting reading was 227 mg/dL. While individually the numbers vary greatly, it's still all the same - higher than normal.
I realize my type of diabetes could not be prevented, but I don't see those with type 2 as "asking" for diabetes. Honestly, who would ask for diabetes? While there are certain environmental factors that can be altered to prevent or at least delay the onset of type 2 diabetes, I don't blame them for developing it. Change is not easy, so simply losing weight or exercising or eating "better" isn't going to happen overnight. Sometimes, diabetes happens.
In addition, I don't get offended when someone confuses me for a type 2 diabetic. In the millions of Americans that have diabetes, 90% of them are type 2. If you assume every diabetic you meet is type 2, you will be correct 90% of the time. It seems like a safe assumption to make. I view it as an education opportunity (the teacher in me will never go away). I have the chance to enlighten someone about an illness similar to type 2, but not the same. Instead of getting angry, I just shared a little knowledge with someone. Pretty cool, right? :o)
Because 90% of diabetics are type 2, I don't feel annoyed when someone says something along the lines of "Oh, my grandma has that" or "If you exercise and eat right, won't it go away?" Again, this presents a learning opportunity. Misconceptions are abundant; it's not because of stupidity - it's simply because of a lack of education. Education. Is. Key.
I also don't believe in stereotyping. Every person you see who is overweight, can't be classified as a type 2 diabetic. I come from a large extended family - our get togethers are huge. I also come from a family where being overweight is common, however diabetes is not common in my family. I have a grandma and an uncle with type 2 - that's it. So what about those people who don't "fit the bill" for type 2 stereotypes - those young, thin, active ones? Is it really fair to lump them all together and say because they had bad genes, it's their fault they developed type 2? You can't pick your family, so you can't help your genetics.
Because I believe education is key, I'm going to educate you on a little known fact. Type 2 diabetes is a progressive illness. It can be well controlled through diet and exercise and medication, but it will never go away. Once you have it, you can't get rid of it. Just like with type 1 diabetes, there is no cure. Anyone who tells you they know someone who lost weight and ate vegetables and their diabetes went away is simply misinformed. With those lifestyle changes, that individual's diabetes is well managed, not cured. Because type 2 is progressive, eventually diet and exercise just may not be enough. Medication and/or insulin may need to be added. Insulin dependence is almost inevitable. When a type 2 is put on insulin, it's not because of a failure on their part. They may not have been able to prevent it. It's simply the nature of the disease.
So, to bring things back around, I believe diabetes is diabetes. Regardless of what type you're struggling with, we are all battling the same demon. Renaming it won't change that; you can call it whatever you want. Instead of arguing amongst ourselves or saying "my life is more difficult than yours," I vote for us all helping each other. I want us all to live together as one big diabetes family. Holding hands, singing around the campfire, and happily poking our fingers in unison. Remember the REM song, "shiny happy people holding hands..."?
Ok, so maybe that last part isn't going to happen anytime soon. But I have love in my heart for all diabetics. Your struggle is my struggle, your triumphs are mine, your pain is my pain. Together, and only together, can we get through this.
|This smile's for you.|
"Our similarities bring us to a common ground; Our differences allow us to be fascinated with each other." ~ Tom Robbins