Question of the Week

October 3, 2005


Cases of diabetes are on the rise. There are 18.2 million people in the United States, or 6.3% of the population, who have diabetes. While an estimated 13 million have been diagnosed with diabetes, unfortunately, 5.2 million people (or nearly one-third) are unaware that they have the disease."

With "6.3% of the population" affected, by the time people reach their teenage years they are likely to know someone who has been touched by the disease. A friend? A family member? Even if you don't think that you know anyone with diabetes, you may have a classmate, neighbor, or teacher who has been diagnosed but hasn't shared that information.

"Being diagnosed with diabetes is never easy. You may feel anger, sadness, guilt, fear ... or all of them at the same time. ... Living with diabetes is a new challenge, for you and for your family, too. You will have a lot to learn in order to manage your diabetes day to day, and to care for yourself. Your family, friends, teachers, and other people
who are close to you will have a lot to learn, too. It can feel overwhelming for all of you at first. This is normal, too. Remembering to take it one day at a time can help. As time goes on, you -- and they -- will feel more and more confident in your knowledge about the disease and your ability to handle it."
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

What if you find out that you know someone who has been diagnosed with diabetes? What if you are diagnosed? What does that mean? What is diabetes?

"Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life."

What about the different types of diabetes?

"There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 most often appears during childhood or adolescence. Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity and physical inactivity, accounts for 90% - 95% of diabetes cases and most often appears in people older than 40. However, it is now being found in younger people and is even being diagnosed among children and teens."

Type 1? Type 2? How are they different?

"In type 1 diabetes, the body has little or no insulin because the immune system -- which normally fights harmful bacteria or viruses -- has attacked and destroyed the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, a gland located just behind the stomach. ... Because type 1 diabetes typically appears in the wake of an infection, the immune attack on insulin-producing cells may be a consequence of the immune system's reaction to the earlier infection."
Mayo Clinic

"[T]he body has little or no insulin"? What does that mean?

"Lack of insulin results in diabetes because of the vital role insulin plays in making glucose -- the body's fuel --
available to cells. During digestion, your body transforms the carbohydrates from such foods as bread, fruits and milk products into different types of sugar molecules. One of these sugar molecules is glucose, the main energy source for your body. Glucose is absorbed directly into your bloodstream after you eat, but it can't enter your cells without the help of insulin. Normally, your pancreas produces insulin continuously, raising its output in
response to the increase in blood sugar that occurs after you eat. This extra insulin 'unlocks' your cells so that more sugar can enter, providing your body with energy as well as maintaining a normal level of sugar in your blood."
Mayo Clinic

And type 2?

"With type 2 diabetes, a person's body still produces insulin. But a person with type 2 diabetes doesn't respond normally to the insulin the body makes. So glucose is less able to enter the cells and do its job of supplying energy. When glucose can't enter the cells in this way, doctors call it insulin resistance. Although there's plenty of insulin in the person's body, because it doesn't work properly, the pancreas still detects high blood sugar levels. This makes the pancreas produce even more insulin."
KidsHealth - Teen

With cases of diabetes on the rise, is there anything that can be done to prevent it?

"Type 1 diabetes can't be prevented. Doctors can't even tell who will get it and who won't. In type 1 diabetes, a
person's immune system attacks the pancreas and destroys the cells that make insulin. No one knows for sure why this happens ... Type 1 diabetes isn't contagious, so you can't catch it from another person or pass it along to your friends. And stuff like eating too much sugar doesn't cause type 1 diabetes...."
KidsHealth - Teen

"Type 2 diabetes is different. Sometimes, you can prevent type 2 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas can still make insulin, but the body doesn't respond to it in the right way. This problem is usually related to being overweight. In the past, mainly overweight adults developed type 2 diabetes. Today, more kids and teens have type 2 diabetes, probably because more kids and teens are overweight...."
KidsHealth - Teen

Questions of the Week:
With "an estimated 13 million ... diagnosed with diabetes, [and] 5.2 million people ... unaware that they have the
disease," what do people who have not been diagnosed need to know about diabetes? How can teens who have been
diagnosed help others to better understand diabetes? How could someone who does not have the disease support and/or help a friend or family member with diabetes?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

Request Question of the Week by email 
QoW Archives: 9/2002 - 8/2003 9/2003 - 8/2004 9/2004 - 8/2005 9/2005 - 8/2006 9/2006 - present

Custom Search on the AE Site