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Insulin – The elixir for T1D

Chronic diseases in simple language are ones which lasts for a longer duration and which requires constant medical attention. They may not have a cure. One such chronic disease is Type 1 Diabetes. I know, you must be thinking, “But diabetes is diabetes.” Unfortunately, that’s not the case. There are many types of diabetes amongst which we will be talking about Type 1.

Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes, is a chronic illness wherein the pancreas in our body produces very little or no insulin at all. Now, Insulin is a hormone which allows our body to turn sugar into glucose and in turn helps the body to produce energy. Insulin basically acts as a key that opens the cell’s gate to be able to absorb glucose in your bloodstream and produce energy. T1D (Type 1 diabetes) is an auto-immune disease. Auto immunity is a condition where your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks your body cells. This is a condition which can neither be predicted nor prevented. T1D is mostly seen in children and adolescents and sometimes in adults. The pancreas is an organ which is situated behind your stomach but in front of your spine. It consists of the Islets of Langerhans which are endocrine tissues. These tissues are made up of four main cells – alpha, beta, delta and PP cells. Beta cells are concerned with the production of insulin in our body and are comparatively more in number than the others. The immune cells mistakenly suspect the beta cells to be foreign invaders and destroy them. As a result, one gets diagnosed with T1D. The exact reason why our immune system attacks our body cells is not known yet.

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Type 1 diabetic is very less-known amongst people. Many are not even able to detect its symptoms. The most common symptoms are:

1. Unintended and sudden weight loss

2. Increased thirst

3. Extreme hunger

4. Frequent urination

5. Mood changes and Irritability

6. Fatigue and weakness

The main reason for all this to occur is, as your body is not producing insulin, the glucose is not absorbed into your body and the cells are depleted of their energy. That’s why you observe sudden weight loss and increased hunger as the food which you are eating is not being utilized for giving energy.

Insulin was first discovered by Sir Fredrick G Banting, Charles H Best and JJR Macleod, at the University of Toronto in 1921. In better words, the elixir for type 1 diabetics to live was discovered in 1921. If you are Type 1 diabetic, then you need to take insulin from outside as it is not formed in your body. We can say that insulin is a life saver for such people. If you don’t take your medication then it can result in high blood sugars (hyperglycemia). And if you take an overdose of your medication it can result in low blood sugars (hypoglycemia).

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Type 1 diabetics have to calculate how much insulin to take before having their meals. It’s literally like living in a world of calculations, but we got to do what we got to do. Also, carb-counting is practiced wherein we approximately count the number of carbs we will be consuming so we can take those many units of insulin. This is mainly done to avoid hypers and hypos. Now a days management of T1D has become a tad bit easier with all the new technology. You have insulin pens, insulin pumps, blood glucose meters and continuous sugar monitoring
devices. These are all used for simplified insulin delivery and for checking blood sugars.

Hopefully in the future, we may have something even more efficient to look forward to. But for now, this is the medication which we need to take.

As an individual who has had Type 1 diabetes for 7 years now, I feel we are always bombarded with cures for it
whenever we explain our health condition to someone. And people do not seem to understand that there is no cure yet. We will have to take insulin for the rest of our life, till the ongoing research yields something interesting and positive. No kind of herbal tea and medicine can help me as much as insulin can. Unsolicited advice is the worst. “Just don’t eat sugar, then your diabetes will go away” or “Do you really have T1D?” or “Just exercise, it’ll get better.” Please don’t ask such questions or say such things. Because you never know what a person with T1D goes through every day. It’s always easier said than done. Yes, it’s sad that there is no cure yet but you are not helping one by constantly reminding them about it.

Every day, I hope and pray that no one gets diagnosed with T1D and that a cure for it is found soon. There are many scientific researches going on for the same, but till then, long live Insulin! Please do not forget that a chronic illness is here to stay and you have to be a warrior. Managing T1D gets overwhelming sometimes as you just cannot figure out the reason for those unstable blood sugars. It’s okay to have bad days. They are the ones which teach you to stay strong and never give up. For my T1D warriors who are reading this, you are absolute Rockstars. And for the others, I hope you got to understand T1D from a different perspective. And God forbid, but if you need to help anyone in this case, you know the basics.

 

 

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Writer 

Gargi Phadnis

Editor

Tejas Nimkar 

Illustrator

Anushree Joshi

 

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