This is kind of like a second "about me" page...Read on for all things Diabetes!
New to the world of Diabetes?
Here are some biology basics: You have a gland in your body (kind of near your stomach, off to the left) that produces a hormone called insulin. When you eat, starches and other complex carbohydrates are broken down to simple sugars in your body. Your body senses these sugars (even as they begin breaking down in your mouth from saliva! Read this Wikipedia article on amylase--the enzyme that does the trick--for more info!) and tells your pancreas to let out some insulin. Insulin goes to the cells in your body and acts like a key, allowing sugar to enter your cells so that it can be used as energy. When you don't have enough insulin or your body doesn't "like" to use it, all of that sugar remains in your blood, pulsing around your body through veins, arteries, and capillaries, instead of going into your cells.
This can become a problem if sugar builds up in your blood. Glucose (the sugar molecules in your body) are pretty big molecules. When they float through the smallest capillaries they can cause damage to the capillaries and to the nerves that they can encapsulate. This leads to aching, tingling limbs--a condition called "diabetic neuropathy." It can also lead to bigger complications, but we'll talk about those elsewhere...
Diabetics measure how much sugar is built up in their blood on some type of "glucometer"--usually a device as big as or smaller than a cell phone. (Side note--in the caption to the right, I mention my Omnipod PDM. PDM stands for "Personal Diabetes Manager," but that's just Omnipod's fancy name for glucometer + graphs of records + pump settings + food/carb list + etc. Okay, I'm glad they made up a name for it too!) We can also use what's called a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) which has a sensor part (inserted under the skin) and a receiver part that shows blood sugar in real time (or relatively). Mine tells me my blood sugar (by using a mathematical equation to figure it out after it actually measures the interstitial fluid--a liquid made by your body that stays between your muscles and skin) every 5 minutes without me having to think about it at all. Thank goodness, right?!
There are several types of Diabetes. The one you hear about most of the time is Type 2 diabetes. This type usually occurs in older folks and happens when the cells in their body can't use insulin properly. It is sometimes accompanied by the pancreas slowing insulin production, although not always.
The second type you may have heard of or had yourself (if you're a woman) is gestational diabetes. This occurs in pregnant women and is when the mom-to-be's cells again decide they won't use insulin properly. Many times having gestational diabetes is a warning of Type 2 diabetes in your future...
The kind I have, and the kind (I would argue) that doesn't get a lot of attention, is called Type 1 or Juvenile diabetes. People with Type 1 do not make insulin any more. Their bodies have had an immune response to their pancreas' beta cells and have systematically killed them off, as if they were a virus. This is a problem because the beta cells are the ones that make insulin. So a person with Type 1 will need to take injections of insulin for the rest of their life. Many of the pills used in Type 2 treatment help the pancreas crank up production of insulin or make cells more receptive. These aren't useful in Type 1 diabetics because they simply do not make insulin!
My old Omnipod PDM and old Dexcom Seven (above). Always a happy moment when blood sugars match! :)
Another serendipitous match up (above) on the day I wrote this page! This time on my new Omnipod PDM and new Dexcom G4. Woohoo!