November is Diabetes Awareness Month

November is Diabetes Awareness Month                            Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L


 Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food.  It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, called beta cells.  In the United States alone, 1.25 million people are living with Type 1 diabetes, including about 200,000 youth.  While often referred to as Juvenile Diabetes, Type 1 diabetes strikes both children and adults at any age.  It comes on suddenly, and its causes are not yet entirely understood.  While scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved, its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. 

Do you know the warning signs to watch for?  Symptoms may be mild at first, but often progress quickly, which is why it is important to know the signs and symptoms to watch for, including:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Drowsiness or lethargy
  • Increased appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Sugar in the urine
  • Fruity odor on the breath
  • Heavy or labored breathing
  • Stupor or unconsciousness


There is nothing you can do to prevent Type 1 diabetes, and—at present—nothing you can do to get rid of it.  While there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes, it can be managed.  Managing Type 1 diabetes requires consistent, daily care, including:

  • Insulin replacement through insulin injections (up to 6 per day) or use of an insulin pump
  • Monitoring of blood glucose levels regularly (up to 6 times every day or as directed by a doctor)
  • Following a healthy diet and eating plan
  • Participating in regular exercise


While people with T1D rely on insulin therapy to control their blood sugar, insulin is not a cure nor does it prevent the possibility of the disease’s serious side effects.  Even with intensive disease management, a significant portion of their day is still spent with high or low blood-sugar levels, placing people with T1D at risk for serious complications. 

Organizations such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation support and advocate for those affected by Type 1 diabetes, and fund research to manage, prevent, and cure this disease.

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