This month, I’m starting a series of blogs that will go over the month’s charitable cause. November is Diabetes Awareness Month, which does not get as much coverage as many months. However, diabetes is a growing concern in Canada and many other parts of the world. In 2015, Diabetes Canada estimated that 9.3% of people in Canada had diabetes, and the number is projected to reach 12.1% of people in 2025. Since these numbers impact so many people, let’s take a moment to dive into what diabetes is and what it does to the body.

What is diabetes?

First, diabetes is actually two conditions rolled into one: Type 1 and Type 2. When you hear of children with diabetes, it’s usually Type 1, and Type 2 typically develops as someone grows older. These conditions both affect sugar intake in the body, but what they do exactly is different.

Type 1 diabetes causes the body’s immune system to kill off insulin-producing cells. Insulin is the hormone that converts sugar into energy for the body to use. Children with Type 1 diabetes may be very thin, lethargic, and constantly thirsty, despite drinking more fluid than average. Because the body doesn’t have sugar to use as fuel, it has to take energy from other parts of the body, which is a slower process. This is why people with Type 1 diabetes are able to function, but they may struggle to complete physically intensive activities.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, occurs when the pancreas makes less and less insulin over time. Although this was called adult diabetes for a long time, more children are becoming Type 2 diabetic, which is a growing cause for concern. The symptoms of Type 2 diabetes can be very similar to Type 1, but patients may also gain weight, rather than losing it.

Although Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, Type 2 can be prevented or delayed by eating healthily, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight. The more you deviate from this lifestyle, the higher your chances are of contracting Type 2 diabetes.

As of right now, there is also no cure for diabetes. However, Diabetes Canada is a charity looking to change that. It primarily focuses its energy in two ways: giving scientists the tools they need to research diabetes, as well as spreading awareness to the public and those who are undiagnosed or ill-informed. If you’re in the US, the American Diabetes Association works similarly.

Overall, it is important for people to know about diabetes, not only because of the disease but also because of future complications if the disease is not controlled. Diabetes can lead to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, kidney damage, and nerve damage. It is important for anyone experiencing unusual weight fluctuation or any of the other symptoms of diabetes to speak with their doctor about their risk and whether they need to be tested.

If you or a loved one have diabetes or are showing symptoms, please reach out to someone who can help you. Diabetes is a lifelong condition that can cause permanent damage to the body, so it’s crucial to take care of yourself now.