Type 1 diabetes has always been in society, and cases of lifestyle-caused Type 2 diabetes are on the rise. While those with Type 1 diabetes prior to the discovery of insulin in the early 20th century usually died (remember all those “wasting diseases” in Victorian novels?), today they are living life to the full. Those with Type 2 diabetes are an ever-increasing band (in more than one sense) because of the Western diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
Education regarding both types of diabetes has several main strands: prevention and cause, symptoms and diagnosis, management on a daily basis and emergency care/first aid.
Education regarding the prevention and cure of diabetes is mostly focussed on Type 2 diabetes. This is because Type 2 diabetes is mostly preventable. Education regarding healthy diet (e.g. eating to the food pyramid, moderation, eating unprocessed foods, eating vegetables, avoiding fats and sugars) is vital for eliminating Type 2 diabetes. So is education on healthy regular exercise. These two factors between them should nip Type 2 diabetes in the bud if people receiving this education remember it and put it into practice.
As the cause of Type 1 diabetes is not completely known at this stage, education regarding its prevention is impossible. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where antibodies mistake the insulin-producing beta-cells in the pancreas for hostile organisms and attack it. Exactly how this “mistake” occurs is the subject of much research.
Education to the general public should touch on the difference between the two types of diabetes. Thanks to the diet industry and education by health professionals, many more people are aware of Type 2 diabetes and that it is linked to poor diet. Receiving the full education regarding diabetes means that parents of a child newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes won’t receive upsetting comments like “Did you give him too many lollies?” or be blamed for the child’s condition.
General diabetes education should also cover how to recognize the early symptoms of the disease. The earliest symptoms are extreme thirst and very frequent urination. “Extreme thirst” involves a desire to drink the daily recommendation of two litres a day within a couple of hours and still come back for more. And “very frequent” urination means the urge to pass a large amount of urine two or three times an hour around the clock.
Education on these early symptoms of diabetes means that an early diagnosis can be made.
Those diagnosed with diabetes will need education relating to the daily management of their blood sugar levels. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes requires monitoring of blood sugar levels throughout the day – usually before meals and before bed. Diabetics also require education relating to adjusting their insulin dosages for exercise, diet, excitement and illness.
Both diabetics and the general public also require education regarding emergency treatment. While diabetes is characterised by high blood glucose levels, blood sugar levels can drop to levels below normal (i.e.
Those with diabetes can, with the help of some education, recognise the signs of low blood sugar and can take action before a coma occurs. These symptoms can include bad temper, lethargy, shakiness, headaches and pallor. On recognising the symptoms, hypoglycaemia can be treated very easily with jelly beans, or a spoonful of honey, jam or sugar followed by a more substantial snack.