About Diabetes

Here is information written just for you to help you understand your diabetes and what to do about it. You can learn about the disease, ways of controlling it, and the history of diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that has been around for thousands of years. When we have diabetes, our body can’t get the energy it needs. Diabetes can be bad if we don’t take care of it. It helps to understand diabetes so we know what’s going on inside our body – it helps us know how to take care of ourselves better. Let’s learn more…

Carbs and Glucose

Our body needs glucose for everything that it does (glucose is another name for sugar). We need glucose to study and to play ball. We need it when we watch TV and even when we sleep. Glucose is like the gas that you put into a car tank – it can’t run without it. We get glucose from food and drinks that have something called carbohydrates.

When we eat carbohydrates (lots of times we call these ‘carbs’ for short), our stomach digests them and turns them into glucose that our body can use for energy. The glucose moves into our blood and travels all around the body. But we can’t use the glucose for energy when it is in the blood. It has to get into the millions of cells that we have in our body. That’s where our body can actually use it.

Insulin and Pancreas

The glucose can only get into our cells if it has the key. This key is called insulin. Insulin makes the doors of the cell open up so that the glucose can go in.

Insulin is made by the pancreas. Since we need glucose all the time, the pancreas sends out a little bit of insulin at a time, all the time. When we eat carbohydrates and have lots of glucose in the blood, the pancreas sends out a lot more insulin so that the glucose can get into our cells.

If you have diabetes like me, then your body produces very little or no insulin. Without insulin, the glucose cannot get into the cells and can’t be used for energy – it just stays in the blood. Before you found out you had diabetes, you probably felt really tired. I bet you were always thirsty and had to pee a lot because your body was trying to wash the glucose out of your blood. Having all that glucose in the blood is not a good thing. This is why we have to take insulin.

Types of Diabetes

There are different kinds of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas stops making insulin. It mostly happens to kids and teenagers like you. No one knows exactly why you get type 1 diabetes, I call it bad luck.

Type 2 diabetes is when the pancreas makes some insulin but it does not work as well as it should. Eating unhealthy foods, not exercising, being overweight, and having parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles that have type 2 can all help cause type 2 diabetes.

When you first find out that you have diabetes you have to go see the doctor. The doctor will let you know which kind of diabetes you have. It can be scary because you don’t know what’s going on. But the doctor, and often times nurses and dietitians, will help you learn what to do so that you can live a healthy life with diabetes.

History

Diabetes has been around for thousands of years. A scientist found descriptions of the disease on papyrus in Egypt that was over 3,500 years old.

A doctor in ancient Greece described the disease and had a name for it: Diabetes Mellitus. Diabetes meant ‘flowing through’ and Mellitus meant “honey-sweet’. This was a good name because the urine had a sweet smell and a sweet taste. Before blood glucose meters people had to taste urine to see if someone had diabetes. I don’t know who did the tasting, but I’m glad it wasn’t me.

In the late 1800s scientists figured out that the pancreas was involved in diabetes and in 1910 the job of insulin in diabetes was discovered. In the 1920s scientists figured out how to make insulin and we have been learning more and more ever since. Science has come a long way and researchers today are trying to figure out how to make a device that will automatically do everything a pancreas is supposed to do.

Next: Taking Care of Diabetes >