Written by Matthew A. Piacentini Friday, 11 November 2011 00:00
If you are a parent, you should watch for the key signs of type 1 diabetes in your children, including frequent urination and excessive thirst, and seek medical attention right away if you notice these signs in your children or in yourself.
This life-threatening affliction can appear to be other simple ailments. Therefore, awareness is all the more crucial.
“Education about the symptoms of T1D is critical because type 1 can easily be mistaken for more common illnesses, such as the flu,” said Deborah Carioto, executive director of the Long Island chapter of JDRF. “A misdiagnosis can have tragic consequences, including death, and knowing the symptoms and warning signs of T1D can save a life. If you or someone you love exhibits one or more of these symptoms, call a doctor immediately.”
One Long Island mom told Healthy Living Digest about the experience of catching the signs of T1D in her child.
Delia DeRiggi–Whitton is a board member of the Diabetes Research Institute, an organization that JDRF actually helps fund.
DeRiggi-Whitton’s oldest daughter Amanda was just starting pre-k when faint signs of the disease reared their head. Fortunately, her mom had been recently informed about what to watch for in your child.
“It can be very subtle,” DeRiggi-Whitton shared. “I noticed excessive drinking and some accidents – she was totally potty trained.” The signs are so easily missed, Amanda was actually being sent home from the doctor without any diagnosis.
“I actually asked that they check her. I said, ‘She has to use the bathroom anyway, so let’s just do a test.’ It was a total shock when the test came back,” DeRiggi-Whitton said.
Her situation - that was almost missed entirely - was so severe that Amanda went right into intensive care. Her sugar level was almost five times higher than normal.
“We were really lucky we caught it when we did,” she said. “If we had waited even one or two more days to seek medical help, Amanda could have been in a coma.”
T1D is a chronic, autoimmune disease that is most often diagnosed before the age of 30. As with many diseases, early diagnosis goes a long way toward preventing serious health problems, and even death.
With T1D, a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. People with type 1 diabetes must take multiple injections of insulin daily or continuous infusion of insulin through a pump just to survive.
Amanda’s mom said it has been a lot to deal with, but she is grateful that they caught the situation early. She has to check her daughter’s blood sugar level twice a night – at 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. – and has for 10 years.
But Amanda is now starting high school and has a lot of friends and plays sports and does dance, showing that if you develop diabetes and deal with it, life can be good.
DeRiggi-Whitton is working hard for a cure though. She fundraises for DRI with annual dinners and car shows, raising almost half a million dollars to date for a cure. She believes they are working on something now that will lead to that cure, in her or her daughter’s lifetime.
She said that experiments have been done replacing the cells that cause the immune system to attack. After the trial procedures, which are simple and fast – patients keep their jeans on while it is being done – people have been cured of the need for insulin.
“I have met and had lunch with people who are off insulin,” she said. However, the side effects are still a problem. “But this gives me a lot of hope that this will soon be one of those diseases of the past,” she said.
Those interested in helping fight T1D could find out more about JDRF and DRI.
The mission of JDRF is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research. T1D is an autoimmune disease that strikes children and adults suddenly, and can be fatal. Until a cure is found, people with T1D have to test their blood sugar and give themselves insulin injections multiple times or use a pump—each day, every day of their lives. And even with that intensive care, insulin is not a cure for diabetes, nor does it prevent its potential complications, which may include kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, stroke, and amputation. Since its founding in 1970 by parents of children with T1D, JDRF has awarded more than $1.5 billion to diabetes research, including $107 million last year. More than 80 percent of JDRF’s expenditures directly support research and research-related education. For more information, visit www.jdrf.org.
DRI leads the world in cure-focused research, calling itself the largest and most comprehensive research center dedicated to curing diabetes. The DRI is aggressively working to shrink the timeline toward the discovery of a biological cure for this disease. Since its inception, the DRI has made significant contributions to the field of diabetes, pioneering many of the techniques used in diabetes centers around the world. Having already shown that diabetes can be reversed through islet transplantation, the DRI is building upon these promising outcomes by bridging cell-based therapies with emerging technologies. The DRI also collaborates with other leading researchers worldwide to develop and test new approaches to restore natural insulin production. The DRI continues to be a strong voice for translational research, ensuring that promising findings in the lab are applied to patients in the fastest, safest and most efficient way possible. In contrast to the historically competitive world of medical research, the DRI is a unifier and a collaborator, bringing together scientists and centers to accelerate progress. Its multidisciplinary teams include researchers, engineers and clinicians, as well as a host of international partners, all working together to cure those now living with diabetes. Through this collaborative, fast-track approach, the DRI is able to advance the newest biomedical technologies that have a real potential to deliver a cure for diabetes, like tissue engineering, nanotechnology, immune-modulation, biomaterials, cellular reprogramming, and regenerative medicine, among others. This integration of technology and medicine, along with its singular focus on a cure, is what makes the DRI unique and distinguishes its research efforts from all others. Visit www.diabetesresearch.org.
(these may occur suddenly):
• Extreme thirst
• Frequent urination
• Sudden vision changes
• Sugar in urine
• Increased appetite
• Sudden weight loss
• Drowsiness, lethargy
• Heavy, labored breathing
• Stupor, unconsciousness
• Fruity, sweet, or wine-like odor on breath
Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano will be joined by representatives from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation of Long Island and Winthrop University Hospital at a ceremony in recognition of World Diabetes Day on Monday, Nov. 14. The program, “Bring Diabetes to Light,” will be held at the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola, and the official “Blue Illumination” of the building’s dome will take place following the ceremony.
“World Diabetes Day helps to bring an increased awareness of the disease and the young people affected by it,” said County Executive Mangano. “With almost 200 children developing diabetes every day, it is a message that we should all carry throughout the year.”