If you’ve followed me for long you’ll already know I have type 1 diabetes, formerly called “juvenile” or “insulin dependent” diabetes- 45 years and counting. People with type 1 diabetes have a lot in common related to the imposition of this condition into our lives, and as a result the community of people with type 1 diabetes is well organized in social media groups and organizations like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The shocking epidemic of type 2 diabetes over the past 20 years has, in many ways, drawn the type 1 community into a tighter group, and some are “resentful” of being lumped into the same “diabetes” category by the uninformed public as that overwhelming number of people with type 2. Personally, I have a soft spot for those with type 2, and here’s why.
The life time game plan for people with type 1 diabetes is clear – not easy or simple, but clear. In general terms we get access to specialized medical care without anyone questioning the need, adequate equipment and instruction to monitor blood glucose levels on a continuing basis, medication that affects blood glucose immediately and noticeable feedback when we go off course. Don’t misunderstand- this is a gigantic pain in the butt, and the noticeable feedback – extreme high and low blood glucose levels- are miserable and even dangerous. But, with type 1 diabetes it’s virtually impossible to misunderstand the consequences for failing to dedicate some attention to diabetes. We go forward in life with our eyes wide open.
Not so with type 2. The onset of type 2 diabetes isn’t an “alarming” event like type 1, tools to monitor and regulate blood glucose levels are restricted by insurers, and the instant feedback from extreme highs and lows isn’t usually part of the picture. I’m convinced that many don’t get a sense of urgency from their doctors, who are often overwhelmed by diabetes patients facing more serious problems too. Ultimately, too many people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes walk forward with their eyes completely closed to the long term consequences of diabetes until the real trouble starts. And, they can honestly say (and often do) “if I had realized what could happen I would’ve tried harder.”
Here’s the bottom line- it’s not diabetes that leads to the real trouble- heart disease, kidney failure, nerve pain, etc. – it’s diabetes that goes unmanaged. Type 1 or type 2, in the long run it’s much the same. I simply think those with type 2 don’t get that message strongly enough, and don’t get the support we all need to thrive.