The Line Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
News coverage needs stricter definitions.
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
March 2011 — Our family has noticed that since the media has increased its coverage of stories on type 2 diabetes, there has also been an increase in the number of misunderstandings that the general public has about type 1 diabetes. Our son gets very frustrated by the number of people who seem to think there is something he can do about having type 1 diabetes, or that he somehow did something to contribute to his diabetes diagnosis in the first place.
Most media coverage of type 2 diabetes simply refers to the disease as "diabetes," which could lead people who are not already informed about diabetes to believe that facts that are applicable to type 2 diabetes also apply to other forms of the disease. The media frequently fails to mention that there are different types of diabetes, and type 1 diabetes has absolutely nothing to do with a person's weight, eating habits, or whether or not they exercise regularly. It is simply about their body failing to produce insulin.
If the media is going to cover type 2 diabetes on the news, why not give a brief explanation of the other types of diabetes and the differences between them? Focusing on the causes of each and what we can all do to prevent type 2 diabetes, while explaining that you cannot prevent type 1, would be a big improvement on the current news coverage. Only mentioning diabetes and not specifying which type seems to make a connection for many people between diabetes in general and a person's eating and exercise habits.
Through social media, celebrities now have more outlets than ever to communicate about issues that they struggle with, and diabetes is no exception. Public figures who frequently speak about having diabetes also sometimes fail to mention what type they have, and make a direct connection between diet, exercise regimen, and diabetes. They speak about the foods they shouldn't eat because they have diabetes, without mentioning they shouldn't have that particular food because they have type 2 diabetes. Restrictions in a person's diet are very different depending on what type of diabetes they have. This is another reason that people draw conclusions about what my son can eat because he has diabetes, when in fact, he does not have any foods that he can't eat. Additionally, he really doesn't appreciate others telling him what he shouldn't eat when they really don't have any idea. The fact that they feel it is their place to inquire or tell him what he can't eat is another matter altogether!
The amount of focus that is placed on diet and exercise being able to regulate type 2 diabetes can suggest that the same lifestyle changes could lead to a regulation of symptoms for type 1 as well. Someone with type 1 diabetes is never "regulated," "evened out," or "under control" just through diet or exercise alone. They require constant monitoring, testing, and insulin regardless of these factors. The most serious form of diabetes deserves at least the same amount of media coverage as the one that happens to be on the rise at the moment.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
Occasionally my mailbox or follow-the-link browsing will come up with something discussing whether (and if so, when) to ease the restrictions on treatment goals when the patient is elderly, arguing either to favor a higher quality of remaining life (lifestyle choices less limited by chronic illness) or to take into consideration geriatric cognitive decline (aka "senility") and simplify, as much as possible, the regimen. While the goal of medicine is, obviously, not to...