It’s the last week of November and I can’t let the month pass without talking about diabetes. I have a personal relationship with the devastation that diabetes can bring to a person and a family. The disease is terrible. Its toll on the body is all encompassing and can be life-limiting. We have no cure. If you have diabetes the treatment is to boost or replace your body’s insulin. But rising prices of insulin force some people to choose between essentials and insulin. Some people ration their insulin at lower than effective doses. This leads to significant consequences, including death. Please join me in signing the American Diabetes Association’s petition “Stand Up for Affordable Insulin.” Don’t understand why this is important? Please read on.
1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year.
What is Diabetes?
It’s actually a collection of diseases where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. There’s Type I diabetes, type II diabetes, and gestational diabetes.
Diabetes causes more deaths per year than breast cancer and AIDS combined and having diabetes nearly doubles your chance of having a heart attack.—The American Diabetes Association)
What is Insulin?
Insulin a hormone produced by your pancreas. Your body turns the food you eat into blood glucose or blood sugar. Insulin helps your body transfer your blood sugar from the bloodstream into your body’s cells. Your cells need the glucose, your blood doesn’t.
What is Blood Glucose?
Your body turns the food you eat into blood sugar or blood glucose. It’s carried in the bloodstream to the cells. It is the main source of fuel for your brain.
Your body is designed to keep your blood sugar levels constant. After you eat your blood sugar rises. Your pancreas secretes more insulin. The insulin allows the blood sugar to cross from the bloodstream into the cells. A few hours after you eat, your blood sugar goes back down. If it’s been a long time since you’ve eaten, your blood sugar dips.
Your cells use blood sugar to create energy. That energy is what your body uses to do all the things it must do to stay healthy, plus enable you to do the activities you need to do and love to do. (Obviously, this is a very simple explanation. Need more details? You can find an easy-to-understand explanation at WebMD.)
Chronic high of blood sugar or hyperglycemia can cause severe complications: cardiovascular disease, nerve damage (neuropathy), diabetic retinopathy (which can lead to blindness), kidney damage (diabetic nephropathy) or kidney failure. These cause more problems such as difficulty holding things, difficulty walking, amputations, and strokes.
Too low of blood sugar can cause problems, too.
Diabetics must balance medication, diet, exercise, and health on a daily basis. Changes in medication, diet, exercise, or health disrupt that balance and can cause hypo- or hyperglycemia.
Not A Choice
Diabetes isn’t a choice. It isn’t the result of eating poorly or eating too much sugar. Being overweight is a risk factor for developing diabetes, but other risk factors such as how much physical activity you get, family history, ethnicity, and age also play a role. Unfortunately, many people think that weight is the only risk factor for type 2 diabetes, but many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight. (—From the American Diabetes Association)
Type I Diabetes
Once called Juvenile Diabetes, Type I Diabetes is an insulin-dependent disease that can strike anyone, any age, any race. If you are a Type I Diabetic your body does not produce any insulin. Nada. Zip.
1.25 million Americans have Type I Diabetes.
My beautiful, smart, funny, and strong niece has Type I Diabetes. She was diagnosed seven years ago at the age of eight. (Here’s my post about that.) She was and is not the least bit overweight.
There is no cure. The only treatment right now is insulin.
Type II Diabetes
Also called hyperglycemia or insulin resistance, Type II Diabetes is when your body isn’t able to use insulin properly. At first, your pancreas increases the amount of insulin in your blood. Over time your pancreas can’t keep up with your body’s needs. Many type II diabetics take medication by mouth and with diet and exercise are able to live long and healthy lives. I am a Type II diabetic controlling my disease with oral medications, diet, and exercise.
In some Type II diabetics, their pancreas stops producing insulin. This means they must take insulin by injection. My husband is an insulin-dependent, Type II diabetic. He has suffered all the complications except the retinopathy. As a result, he takes many medications every day. The cost of his insulin alone is more than what we spend on groceries each month. The total monthly cost of his medications gives me many a sleepless, worry-filled night. I can’t imagine how much worry it gives to people who live at or below the poverty line.
Many women develop diabetes while pregnant. Usually this happens around the 24th week of pregnancy. It’s important that pregnant women are followed by a physician and treated for gestational diabetes if they develop it. It doesn’t mean they had diabetes before they became pregnant. It also doesn’t mean they will have diabetes after the birth of their child. But treatment will prevent complications. Get more information here.
Insulin isn’t a luxury
Approximately 6 million Americans are insulin-dependent.
They must take insulin to live.
And believe me, Americans aren’t the only people who suffer from this disease. So it’s not like the pharmaceutical companies that produce insulin are selling to a rarified customer. Insulin shouldn’t cost more than a month of groceries. Please join me. Sign the petition.
My father and my sister both have type one diabetes. My father has passed, but my sister are struggles daily with the disease. As an RN, and growing up with family members with the disease I had a pretty intimate knowledge of how devastating it can be.
I fully support free insulin for diabetics. I will get up on my soapbox, but this is something that needs to happen. Thank you for bringing attention to it.
Serena, Thank you for your support. I’m so sorry to hear about your father and sister. Yes, being an RN one sees many things–not the least of which are diabetics with complications. It makes having family members with the disease both more difficult and a bit easier(as far as understanding the disease). My wish for you and your family is lots of healthy energy and strength.