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  • Writer's picture Bowie Matteson

Diabetes: Cliff Notes Version

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

I am a learner. I’ve always been curious about how and why things work. In 2001, after my T1D diagnosis, I wanted to know what had happened. Partly to see what I had done to get it and partly to see if I could fix it.

I took to the internet to discover how and why my body had done what it had. If you are new to diabetes, either for yourself or a loved one, I encourage you to learn more about it. Knowledge on the subject can serve you mightily, either to save yourself or to help someone in need. I figured I’d take you through an abbreviated version of what I learned about diabetes mellitus.

Diabetes mellitus is Greek for “to pass through sweet” referring to the excess sugar diabetics pass in both their blood and urine in times of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). It is in reference to the body’s lost ability to produce a hormone, insulin, which is responsible for the metabolism of sugar by your body’s cells.

Insulin is produced in the pancreas. The pancreas has a specific set of cells called beta cells that are responsible for making insulin. In a Type I diabetics development, the beta cells become deactivated. Thus, the body is left unable to properly metabolize carbohydrates. The cause of this immune reaction is still left to be discovered.

Glucose is the #1 building block of carbohydrates in the food you eat, and once broken down in your stomach and pushed through to your small intestine, is distributed through your blood to be delivered to your cells. Without insulin to initiate your cell’s uptake of the newly available fuel, it remains trapped in your blood.

For type I diabetics, exogenous (from pumps/injections/pills etc) insulin is the only way for them to efficiently transport the sugar from their blood into their cells.

Death for an untreated Type I diabetic comes quickly, as the cells of your organ systems, now starved of energy and unable to function properly, shut down.

What's your elevator pitch to describe diabetes?

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