Diabetes Awareness Month
Updated: Nov 20, 2018
Last week on the blog I posted about Alzheimer’s disease, because November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness month. Well, this week I’m posting about diabetes, because November just happens to be National Diabetes Awareness month as well. Diabetes is prevalent in the United States; 105 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes each year. Currently 30.3 million Americans have diabetes. Approximately 1.25 million of those children and adults have type 1 diabetes. Of the 30.3 million adults with diabetes, 23.1 million were diagnosed, and 7.2 million were undiagnosed. Diabetes remains the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. If you do not have diabetes, you probably know someone that does. I have friends and family that have both types. Type 1 diabetes does not get the same attention as type 2, possibly because it is less common. Contrary to popular belief, type 1 diabetes is not a childhood disease. It occurs at every age, in people of every race and every shape and size. In fact, there are more adults with type 1 diabetes than children, although it was previously known as juvenile diabetes.1 I found this information out when a friend and co-worker was diagnosed in her 20’s. I don’t want to mess up the details of her story, because I am sure there are details that I do not know, but I do know she was feeling bad, fatigued, and her vision was very blurry. It all seemed to happen quickly. She may tell you it came on more slowly, but from an outsider looking in it seemed to happen fast. I knew her for years, when we were in middle school and high school, she always seemed healthy and beautiful (she is still beautiful by the way), I always called her Christy Brinkley, because she was so beautiful. She is the only person I know personally that received a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes as an adult. I reached out to her and asked if she would like to give me more details about her story so that I could share it here. She was quite gracious and said yes! She is an advocate for educating people on diabetes. This is her story, in her own words:
“I was pregnant for the first time at age 23 and again for the second time at 24. My babies are 12 months apart. I was diagnosed with gestational Diabetes with both pregnancies. After giving birth both times my blood sugars returned to normal. About 3 years later at age 27 I began having symptoms of excessive thirst and urination, extreme fatigue, and I was always sick with a cold or virus of some sort. I also lost about 10 pounds without trying. I went to the doctor several times, but they always said I was just run down from having two toddlers and working full time. And that made sense to me. Then one day I woke up and my eyesight was blurry as if I was under water. I went to the eye doctor and during the exam he asked how long I’d been diabetic, I told him I was only gestational diabetic years back when I was pregnant. He quickly informed me that I needed bloodwork immediately because my eye exam showed a layer of sugar built up behind my eyes and that happens over time, so he felt I had been diabetic for some time but not diagnosed. After my doctor visit with an endocrinologist my blood work revealed that I was positive for the antibodies test and that my pancreas was no longer making any insulin. So, Type 1 is an autoimmune disease. My own immune system attacked the beta cells in my pancreas that produce insulin and those cells do not reproduce. So, I now have to give myself insulin shots or via insulin pump daily for the rest of my life. The answer as to what or why this happens is still unknown.
People have a stereotype of diabetics being overweight and unhealthy. But in Type 1 you can be in perfect shape and look amazing but that doesn’t mean you’re okay on the inside.
Some people develop type 1 at age 3 and some at 33 ...... Just depends when those antibodies are triggered to attack.”
I remember her getting this diagnosis and how devastating it was for a young mother, but she has managed to make her story inspirational and educate others. I wanted to take the time to bring attention to this rarely discussed disease. I hear about type 2 diabetes all the time, but rarely hear about type 1. It is a deadly disease, it can affect almost every organ in your body including the heart and blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, nerves, gastrointestinal tract, as well as gums and teeth.
Of course, the gums and teeth are my area of expertise. A thorough review of patient’s medical history is very important to determine risk factors for caries and gingivitis/periodontitis. A patient with unsatisfactory glycemic control, represented by higher HbA1c concentrations, exhibited a higher frequency of caries and gingivitis, and a reduction in salivary flow. With the complete medical history including the patients most recent HbA1c, we can discuss and implement proper treatment and oral hygiene instructions. If you are a patient, please make sure you are disclosing your complete, medical history. If you are a health care provider, please make sure you are reviewing health histories and discussing individual needs of each patient. Dentistry is not a one size fits all, different patients have different needs. Many prayers they find a cure for type 1 diabetes soon!
Information retrieved from