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A few misconceptions about type 1 diabetes

by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: July 7, 2014 at 4:45 pm •  Published: July 7, 2014

Kristin Ewing feels like she has at least 10 guardian angels.

At 8, Ewing was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Ewing, 32, has had some bad lows and isn’t sure how she survived some of them.

For example, shortly before moving to Oklahoma, Ewing suffered from high blood sugars that led to multiple seizures, which led to low blood sugars. She ended up in a near coma in the hospital.

“Despite the ups and downs with my diabetes, I am thankfully, complication free,” she said.

Ewing tries to raise awareness about type 1 diabetes and answered a few questions about the misconceptions that people have about the disease.

Misconception No. 1: Have an insulin pump? That must mean you have it bad. 

This past November, Ewing switched from multiple daily injections to an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring system.

Since then, Ewing has had people see her pump and say things like, “Oh, you must have it really bad.”

That’s not the case, Ewing said.

“I’m just taking advantage of the opportunity in advancements that have been made to control it better than I was,” she said.

Misconception No. 2: You can’t be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as an adult.

Ewing was diagnosed when she was 8. However, she has friends who were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in their 20s.

“People will go , ‘You’re not a child, so you much have type 2,’” Ewing said.

As the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse points out:

Type 1 diabetes, which used to be called juvenile diabetes, develops most often in young people; however, type 1 diabetes can also develop in adults.

In type 1 diabetes, your body no longer makes insulin or enough insulin because the body’s immune system, which normally protects you from infection by getting rid of bacteria, viruses, and other harmful substances, has attacked and destroyed the cells that make insulin.

Misconception No. 3: “Um, you probably shouldn’t eat that.”

Type 1 diabetes in most people is caused when the body’s immune system mistakenly destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It is not known what causes this reaction.

Unlike Type 2 diabetes, there is no demonstrated link between lifestyle and developing Type 1 diabetes.

Hence the reason it can sometimes be frustrating when someone asks Ewing a question like, “Should you really eat that?”

“I can eat absolutely anything,” she said. “I just have to bolus for it – bolus is taking the fast-acting insulin.”

The amount of insulin Ewing takes is based on the amount of carbohydrates she consumes. Every person with diabetes is different in what their insulin-to-carb ratio is.

Misconception No. 4: It’s OK for you to look at someone’s blood sugar when they’re testing it.

Ewing said the most frustrating questions come when she takes her blood sugar and someone tries to see what her blood sugar was.

“That ask, ‘Is it good or bad?” she said. “You have to kind of bite your tongue because you want to snap at them … That number signifies so much that you might not necessarily control.”

Ewing said a lot of different factors can affect her blood sugar, including food, medications, mental health and the weather. Often times, it is out of her control, she said.

“When someone tries to look at what my blood sugar is, I’m very territorial — and I know a lot other people who are,” Ewing said. “It might be high, but you might also know you’ve been fighting a cold, and you understand why it’s high, but they won’t.”

###

Ewing is active in the diabetes online community and regularly blogs about her experiences. On Wednesday nights, you might find her on a Twitter chat that starts at 8 p.m. CST with the hashtag #dsma.


by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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