OPINION: Type 1 diabetes very different to type 2

INFORMATION: Misunderstanding of the diabetes types can cause unfair and hurtful judgments.
INFORMATION: Misunderstanding of the diabetes types can cause unfair and hurtful judgments.

I MAKE reference to an opinion piece in your paper, ‘‘Australians must recognise diabetes risk’’, written by endocrinologist Dr Claire Morbey, that was published on World Diabetes Day on November 14.

In response, I want to draw attention to the very important distinction between the two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. In fact, I am campaigning to have the names changed to reflect how different the diseases are.

Each type of diabetes deserves its own level of understanding, and the time to educate is now.

Being specific about type 1 or type 2 when referring to the condition is becoming increasingly important because, with so much attention on obesity and its association with type 2 diabetes, the condition overall is beginning to attract negative stigma.

Unlike type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes is not caused by obesity or lifestyle choices. It is an auto-immune disease.

We need to remain sensitive to the 122,000 Australians who must manage their type 1 diabetes on a daily basis for their entire lives.

Type 1 diabetes can affect children from birth to young adults up to age 30 and there is no cure.

The confusion risks damaging those children with type 1 diabetes who have been known to experience bullying from their peers.

Many parents feel as if they have done something wrong when asked questions such as: Why does your child have diabetes? That only happens to obese people, right? Did you feed them a high-sugar diet?

It’s time to educate the public about the life-saving glucose ‘‘treat’’ that addresses a low blood sugar episode – a ‘‘hypo’’ – and how important this sugar is in being the difference between life and death. Yes, at that time, children with type 1 diabetes need sugar.

Type 2 diabetes is, in most cases, genetic and is often caused by obesity, diet and lifestyle choices. It occurs mostly in people over 40 or, in the case of obesity, can be earlier.

Of course, there is also gestational diabetes, which can occur during pregnancy in women.

My concern with articles such as the one written by Dr Morbey is that they don’t draw a strong distinction between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Statistics referred to did not distinguish between people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, although these are completely different diseases.

People suffering from type 1 diabetes most commonly are on the receiving end of the stigma linked with type 2 diabetes. That is, they are overweight, must have been fed a high-sugar diet, and if they are children, then the parents are to blame.

Our children suffer enough having this illness (type 1 diabetes), without having ill-informed people misjudge how they came to have it.

My own daughter was diagnosed more than five years ago, at the tender age of two. You may ask yourself what I did for her to have this. The answer is ‘‘nothing’’.

There was no way I could have prevented my daughter being diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic; trust me, if there was I would have done it.

My daughter was just 11 kilograms at diagnosis, far from overweight, and at nearly eight years of age, is only 21 kilograms, again far from overweight.

To date, she has had more than 15,000 finger prick injections to test her sugar levels, and more than 2500 insulin injections.

She is one of the lucky ones, with an awesome team behind her at the John Hunter Hospital and a dedicated family to help.

I understand it is important to raise awareness about the lifestyle factors that can be changed in regard to type 2 diabetes.

But I also ask that when diabetes is talked about and written about, that the distinctions between the two types are clearly differentiated.

And that people with type 1 diabetes are respected for the difficulty they face every day living with their disease.

Catherine Rowley has a daughter with type 1 diabetes. She is a peer support volunteer for other families affected by the disease, and fund-raises for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.