Diabetes is a disease that we often hear about. In fact, you probably know a handful of people with diabetes. Although the word is used so frequently and the disease is so prevalent, many of us still do not have a clear understanding of what diabetes really is or the symptoms associated with it.
Diabetes is a life changing disease. Understanding diabetes and recognizing the signs and symptoms can prevent serious complications from the disease.
When Amy Brant, Corporate Wellness Nurse and Program Manager for Iredell Wellness & Diabetes Center, was diagnosed with diabetes, she experienced these misunderstandings, both on her own. and others.
Brant was a healthy and active 19-year-old student when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
“Type 1 diabetes is known to be an autoimmune problem. This is when the immune system attacks the beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin. The human body has to have insulin to turn carbohydrates into energy, and the body can’t survive without it, ”Brant said.
In November 1999, Brant contracted a terrible case of tonsillitis. Then, three months later, in January, she quickly began to experience unusual symptoms: increased thirst, excessive urination, and rapid weight loss.
“Even though I was always hungry and ate constantly, I lost 14 pounds in one week. My clothes were falling off me, ”she said.
Her body wasn’t processing the calories she put in, so it had to break down its fat storage for energy.
Not knowing what was going on, Brant decided to research her symptoms online, and the search result always led her to “diabetes.”
“When it came to diabetes, I thought, ‘Well, that’s not fair’. In my mind, there was the misconception that you had to be old or overweight to have diabetes, ”she said.
After typing in his symptoms several times and being given the word “diabetes” after each search, Brant decided to make an appointment with the doctor.
When Brant’s fasting blood sugar dropped to 296 mg / dL, when a value below 100 mg / dL is considered a normal fasting level, her doctor knew right away that she had diabetes.
Brant’s doctor went back through her medical history to see if she had recently had any viral illnesses, and she did. They determined that her tonsillitis three months ago triggered her type 1 diabetes.
“Basically my immune system made a mistake. So instead of attacking the virus, it attacked itself and destroyed the insulin-producing cells in my pancreas, ”she said.
“It’s usually around 1 to 3 months from the time you had the viral trigger that you start to see symptoms,” she added. “Symptoms occur when about 90% of your insulin-producing cells in your pancreas are destroyed, and symptoms usually seem to appear overnight.”
There is a common misconception that type 1 diabetes is strictly genetic. However, several factors can trigger it, including viral illnesses, such as Brant’s tonsillitis, and even traumatic events or accidents.
Brant spent four days in the hospital where she learned to inject insulin and count carbohydrates.
“When I left the hospital, I only understood about 20% of how to manage my blood sugar and stay healthy with this new diagnosis,” Brant said. “This is another important reason why we insist that patients be referred to educators afterwards. “
After being diagnosed and leaving the hospital, Brant felt confused and scared.
“I didn’t know you could be young, healthy and have diabetes. I remember a lot of people saying, ‘What? You are not old enough for diabetes’ and ‘But, you are not overweight,’ ”she said.
Brant must have become much more aware of almost every behavior, of what she was eating and what time she was eating.
Insulin injections can only control blood sugar for a certain period of time. Brant therefore had to inject himself several times a day. At first, she felt like she had to plan her whole life around diabetes.
“I spent the first year very frustrated because I couldn’t figure out the routine. Everyone told me it would get easier, and I didn’t believe them for very long. But eventually it got easier, ”she said.
Brant injected herself with insulin for eight years, then in 2008 she decided to get an insulin pump, which allows more freedom in calculating insulin doses throughout her life. daytime. She also uses a Dexcom Continuous Glucose Meter (CGM) which gives her a more consistent view of how her blood sugar is going.
“It took me six months to a year after my diagnosis before I felt I really understood how to manage my diabetes, but there are certainly still times when my numbers are hard to control and frustration sets in,” he said. she declared.
Brant originally graduated from college and worked in country music radio and television production. She returned to school to become a nurse in 2010. Brant began her career as a critical care nurse and eventually became a diabetes educator, devoting her career to empowering others trying to navigate life with diabetes.
“As a diabetes educator, I want people to know what diabetes is and the symptoms associated with it,” said Brant.
With type 1 diabetes, early recognition of symptoms is crucial for treatment. Unfortunately, type 1 can be missed a bit more frequently, especially in children.
“In the past 10 years, I can think of three or four cases where young children six and under go to the doctor and complain of upset stomach and general malaise. When the kids are that young, a lot of times, “they just have a bug, that’s okay,” but those kids are dead, and it’s preventable.
“One finger in the doctor’s office and they would have known the blood sugar was out of control,” she said.
If not diagnosed correctly, Type 1 can potentially be a very quiet and rapid killer.
As we approach the end of Diabetes Awareness Month, Brant wants people to know about three things:
- “We want people to understand what diabetes is and that there are differences between the types. It isn’t always eating sugar or having a sedentary lifestyle that leads to a diagnosis. “
- “People with diabetes are strong, resilient and face multiple decisions every day. According to a Stanford study, people with diabetes face 180 additional health-related decisions every day.
- “There are resources available to help people with diabetes live the best and healthiest lives possible. The Iredell Diabetes and Wellness Center is here to help.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with diabetes, know that you are not alone and it won’t be so difficult forever. An appointment with a diabetes educator can give you the resources you need to help you manage your diabetes.
“I like to remind my patients that we are all stronger than we think. And sometimes we don’t know this strength until we are forced to find it. And if you haven’t been forced yet, now is the time. You will find that strength, ”she said.
To make an appointment with Amy Brant at the Iredell Wellness and Diabetes Center, please speak to your primary care provider about a referral. You can also call the diabetes center directly at 704-878-4556 and ask them to contact your provider.