Dealing with diabetes: a constant struggle

Diabetes is a disease that has impacts every aspect of a person's life.

Photo by ballyscanlon (Getty Images Archives)

Diabetes is a disease that has impacts every aspect of a person’s life.

By: Gabby Cano, Editor

On Feb. 28, 2013, sophomore Vanessa Gould was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Up until that point, Gould led a normal life as a high school teenager.

“When I was first diagnosed, the first few weeks were really difficult for me to get back on track with my normal life. As each day passed, I started to overcome this obstacle little by little. It’s not as hard as it used to be, but for the rest of my life I know I’ll have a lot of responsibilty to make sure I stay healthy,” Gould said.

Gould is one of the many teens that suffer from the disease.

There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and  according to the American Diabetes Association, only five percent of people with diabetes have the type 1 form.

Just like Gould, senior J.T. Karr lives with the type 1 form of diabetes. After being diagnosed at age 2, Karr has dealt with the disease for almost his whole life.

“Being diagnosed with diabetes adds a lot of responsibilty. I have to deal with this disease, along with all the other problems a normal teenager deals with. It adds a health risk to everything I do,” Karr said.

Even though it can prove to be an obstacle, diabetic people can learn to live with the disease.

Before she was diagnosed, Gould noticed that she was drinking large amounts of water, which is a common symptom caused by this disease. In addition to the increased thirst, Gould was eating a ton of food but started losing weight, and she also dealt with fatigue.

Other symptoms include urinating often, blurry vision, cuts or bruises that take a longer time to heal, tingling or pain in the hands and feet.

With this form of diabetes, a person’s body does not produce insulin. Insulin is the horomone that is essential to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed to function.

A person’s pancreas is no longer able to produce the insulin a body needs to function. This means a person has to receive multiple daily injections with insulin pens, syringes or an insulin pump. Type 1 diabetes can be managed with the help of insulin therapy and other treatments. People can learn to live long, healthy lives.

On the other hand, type 2 diabetes is a problem with the body that causes blood glucose, also known as sugar, levels to rise higher than normal.  This problem is also referred to as hyperglycemia. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes.

When a person suffers from this disease, their body does not use insulin correctly. Their pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it, but over time it isn’t able to keep up and can not make enough insulin to keep blood glucose at an average level.

Diabetes could possibly cause complications to arise. Nerve damage in the feet is one of several possible issues to occur. It will lessen the ability for a person to feel heat, cold or pain.

Several other complications that could occur from diabetes include: kidney disease, ketoacidosis (DKA), high blood pressure (Hypertension), heart disease and stroke.

Exercise is an important component of proper diabetes care. By keeping active, a person’s blood glucose levels will stabilize. Developing solid meal plans is also key. Also, emotional support is essential for people struggling with this diagnosis.

“My family, especially my aunt who has type 1 diabetes herself, and my friends have all been very supportive and thoughtful. They’re always looking out for me,” Gould said.

As for Karr, his father has been a source of support.

“My dad was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 17, so he knows what it’s like to have the disease,” Karr said.

Having diabetes affects the daily lives in many ways. Kaneland High School teenagers who suffer from this disease have to frequently check in with the school nurses if their glucose levels are too low or too high. School nurse Annie Olle deals with these cases often.

There is a lot of equipment that a student needs to bring to school if they have diabetes.

“Students leave their equipment with us usually. We have testing strips, their pumps, snacks in case their levels are too low and their glucose meters,” Olle said.

Diabetes is an illness people adjust to over time. Visit the American Diabetes Association’s website to learn more about this disease.