Type I Diabetes

Type I diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes, is a less common form of the chronic illness. In this condition, the pancreas does not produce a sufficient amount of insulin to convert sugars into energy for daily use. Type I diabetes typically appears in children and adolescents. Biologically, type I diabetes is caused by the body mistakenly destroying insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Genetics and exposure to viruses play a role in the development of this disease (1). Despite the illness’s demands, a myriad of complications are attributed to type I diabetes such as heart disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, and osteoporosis.

Type I diabetes creates a demanding lifestyle for a patient to adhere to. He or she must take insulin daily, adhere to a strict diet and exercise plan, and monitor blood sugar. From a societal perspective, an individual hindered by so many complications is forced to slow down his life and pay attention to health on a level that most individuals do not (but maybe should). This is seen as a detriment. The affected cannot exist and operate at as fast of a pace as the rest of the population. Culturally in the United States, diabetics are viewed this way.

The culture’s attitude toward type I diabetes has little effect on the specific treatments, but attitudes of friends and families on an individual basis may make a difference. In the video, “A Day Living with Diabetes,” the eleven-year-old girl, Anna, handled her disease with knowledge and independence that must have been the result of supportive parents. She knew what her disease was and what it meant for her, and she managed to adhere to her treatment without being reminded (2). Her friends and family undoubtedly had an effect on her attitude toward her illness.

As the placebo effect illustrates, a strong association exists between belief in healing and healing itself. In the documentary, “Placebo: Cracking the Code,” the placebo was administered as an antidepressant with astounding results. After the discovery that the difference between the response of the drug and the placebo was less than two points on a clinical scale (a meaningless difference), Irvan Kirsch stated, “We can alter our experience by what we believe about it” (3). A friend of mine was cured from cancer a few years ago, and he swears that his positive attitude made “all the difference” in his experience and the time it took for him to recover.

(1) Mayo Clinic Staff. “Type I Diabetes.” Mayo Foundation for Education and Research. Accessed July 22, 2014. < http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-1-diabetes/basics/treatment/con-20019573>.

(2) “A Day Living with Diabetes.” Youtube. Viewed July 22, 2014. < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVUOIr8Etow>.

(3) “Placebo: Cracking the Code.” Youtube. Viewed July 22, 2014. < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvbQnMvhQFw>.

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Melinda Zielinski says:

    I took a pathophysiology class and we did a huge segment on Type I and II Diabetes so I know a good amount of the biomedicine view of the illness. My perceptions of the illness from a biomedicine standpoint is that Type I Diabetes is where your pancreas does not produce insulin at all, leaving your body unable to carry glucose into the cells to be digested. Type I Diabetes is typically diagnosed in children. In most cases people are born with the illness or something damages the pancreas in life making it unable to produce insulin. People with Type I Diabetes are given an insulin pump, which provides their bodies with insulin to digest glucose. Some people with the illness are also given insulin injections if needed.
    My cultural perceptions of the illness are that people with Type I Diabetes are normal people they just have a little extra work to be “normal”. Unlike me who doesn’t have the illness I grew up with a girl who does. I never thought it was weird. I just knew she was special because she had to wear her pump that I never had to. In fact, in fifth grade we went to a weekend camp away from home and next to her bed in our cabin she had a bottle of syrup. She had the bottle of syrup next to her bed just incase her blood sugar was too low. She would drink the syrup (as gross as that sounds) so she could raise it if it got too low. Diabetics just have to live on a schedule. A schedule that involves checking their blood sugar multiple times a day because their body fails to do it for them.
    My perceptions on the illness are be influenced by my family, society, and friends. When I was growing up my parents taught me about my friends condition after I asked what she was wearing (her pump) and why she had to wear it. I was told that her body didn’t regulate properly so she had to wear this special device to help keep her regulated and alive. As for society, I grew up in the American society that has Type I Diabetes (and Type II) as a major problem. Therefore, people with the illness weren’t seen as being weird, or bad, or crazy. They just had a problem with their regulation of insulin. There are lots of organizations raising money for cures in America. I suppose the media influences my perceptions as well because you always see diabetes commercials on TV. This helps raise awareness and makes the illness seem more common and normal since it is a big problem in America. Friends influenced my perceptions of the illness because I have a friend that lives with it. She’s just as normal as anyone else she just has to stay on a schedule as I stated before. By her sharing her illness narrative, I understand more of where she’s coming from when she’s having really high-energized (high sugar and regulated sugar) days and really low-energized (low sugar) days. Growing up with her also helps me understand how scary it is for a person who has the illness when their blood sugar is way too high or way too low.

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