Okay, here's the deal: There's basically two forms of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Logical enough names, I suppose.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder: something goes haywire in the immune system, and the patient's body destroys their own ability to manufacture insulin. Blood sugar skyrockets, they feel like crap, and if they don't get onto insulin, they die. This used to be called Juvenile Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is more of a mystery. It's insulin resistance -- the body makes enough insulin, it just doesn't work right. It's often associated with obesity, and people can manage it through losing weight and exercising lots. This used to be called Adult-Onset diabetes
Recently, adults have begun contracting type 1 diabetes. In fact, this has probably always happened -- it's just that years ago, people dropped dead and nobody thought that much about it. When an adult contracts type1 diabetes, it usually takes a while. Kids go diabetic over the space of days or weeks. Adults go type 1 diabetic over years. Some people call this type 1.5 diabetes, or LADA (Latent Autoimmune Disorder in Adults).I'm 5'9, I weigh 150 pounds. My BMI is around 21. I'm not obese in anyone's book, and I'm pretty active -- particularly with these rambunctious kids of mine. My pancreas isn't making enough insulin anymore, so I can't process carbohydrates. Left to itself, my blood sugar tends to climb. For the last six weeks, I've managed to control my blood sugar with an insanely strict, almost entirely carb-free diet and rigorous exercise. It hasn't been enough,and frankly, it wouldn't be possible for that to be enough.
I'm on small doses of insulin now, and I take some fast-acting insulin before every meal or snack. I will do that for the rest of my life. Over the next few years, my immune system will destroy any remaining insulin-production ability that I still have. My insulin dosages will have to increase. I'm bucking to get an insulin pump, because 4-7 insulin injections a day is a drag.
This is the same thing that happened to Thorwald, it's just happening later and more slowly. I also have a first cousin on my mother's side that is Type 1 diabetic, meaning all my relatives on my mom's side are now at increased risk of type 1 diabetes, as is feisty little Gunnar. Well, really, their risk isn't increased anymore over what it was -- we just KNOW about the risk now.
A lot of people think diabetes is about willpower, or about diet choices, or about not exercising enough. Type 1 diabetes is not, and for many people, even type 2 diabetes isn't really about that. There is suspicion among some that obesity and type 2 diabetes are a chicken-and-egg problem -- it's hard to say which comes first.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation spends its money researching cures for Type 1 diabetes. The American Diabetes Assocation would appear to focus their efforts on Type 2 diabetes. There is a difference between these two things. Experts, however, suspect that upwards of 20% of diagnosed type 2 diabetics are actually succumbing to LADA -- that is, they're developing type 1 diabetes, but because of their age and ignorance about LADA, their doctors do not run the proper tests.
I'm lucky, I have a good doctor. Despite all my evidence that I was controlling my blood sugar through diet and exercise, he still ran the c-peptide test, which showed I wasn't producing enough insulin. I'll hear back soon about whether or not I have antibodies to insulin in my blood. That's called the GAD test.
If you have a type 1 diabetic in your immediate family, you should probably have a c-peptide and GAD test done every couple of years. This is cheap insurance against the complications of Type 1 diabetes (loss of extremities, blindness, kidney failure, heart attack). Turns out that hypothyroid is also implicated in LADA, but I haven't gotten the results of that test back.
So, in a nutshell, that's the difference between type1, type2, and why most people get them confused -- it's a confusing subject. The average person is not well versed in the differences or details. In fact, it's been less than a hundred years since there has been ANY treatment for diabetics. There are still a handful of people alive who were in the first generation of insulin recipients -- some of them have been taking it for eighty-two or eighty-three years! This was without any of the high tech tools at the disposal of Thorwald and I. Our outlook is exceedingly good, and we could both see longer than average lifespans, with fewer complications than many non-diabetics typically experience.
Author's note: I originally posted this on my facebook page, but since facebook content CAN dissappear, I figured I should mirror it in a place I control. I wouldn't want this to go away entirely.