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Western Herald – Diabetic students share their thoughts on American Diabetes Month
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Diabetic students share their thoughts on American Diabetes Month

Kassie Charnley
News Reporter

The American Diabetes Association has declared November American Diabetes Month. While people typically associate diabetes with older individuals, the number of juveniles and college-aged students inflicted with diabetes is actually fairly high.

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The purpose of American Diabetes Month is to raise awareness of the disease that affects nearly 26 million Americans.

Two WMU students spoke out about their experiences with Type 1 diabetes.

Mike Joyce, a senior studying Psychology, said he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 19 years old, which is pretty rare, but is also becoming more common.

“Diabetes affects my daily life in big way. I wear an insulin pump at all times, with the exception of physical activities and when I’m in the water. The pump is attached to my body via a tube-catheter configuration. There is a lot of planning that must take place on a daily basis,” Joyce said.

Jeffrey Demers, a sophomore studying Aeronautical Engineering, said he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 12 years old.

Just like Joyce, Demers said there is a lot of planning that goes into creating and maintaining balance in his life because he is diabetic.

“I prick my finger at least four times a day, and I have to give myself insulin at meals. I am constantly thinking whether I should or can eat specific foods or whether I gave myself enough insulin for a specific item of food,” Demers said. “Unlike people who are not diabetic, I have to keep a closer eye on things.”

Demers says being diabetic is really not the worse thing in the world.

“I can still have a normal lifestyle through proper exercise and medication and I know what I can and can’t eat,” Demers said.

Both Joyce and Demers think students should know the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes because there are some distinct differences that can help students understand the issues related to the disease.

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Becky Emerson, a Certified Diabetes Educator at the Bronson Diabetes Education Center in downtown Kalamazoo, was able to speak about the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as well as what students should look out for when it comes to this disease.

Emerson said the most common symptoms are frequent urination, frequent thirst, lack or increase in appetite, dry, itchy skin, fatigue, dizziness, and blurred vision.

In regards to the two different types of diabetes, Emerson explained the differences between the two:

  • Type 1 – Occurs in children and young adults, but can develop in older adults. This disease comes on more suddenly – within a few days up to weeks. A major sign is rapid weight loss. The body makes little or no insulin. This type is an auto-immune disease.
  • Type 2 – Occurs in adults, but there is a growing number of children developing this type. This disease has a lot to with growth, especially obesity. This disease comes on more slowly – over months or even years. There are often mild to no symptoms at all, but unexplained weight loss  that occurs over time is one of the major signs of this disease. The body usually doesn’t make enough insulin.

Emerson said diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. She also said diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure and non-traumatic lower limb amputation, and blindness among adults in the U.S. each year.

In regards to the services that the Bronson Diabetes Education Center provides, Emerson said the center provides services for all ages and any stage of diabetes.

“We provide individual instruction, classes, and adult support groups. Registered nurses and dieticians are available and are also certified diabetes educators,” Emerson said.

The Bronson Diabetes Education Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The center is located at 535 S. Burdick, Suite 256 in the Hinman Skyrise Business Center.

Emerson said she gives someone with diabetes a lot of credit because they have a lot to manage in their daily life, yet she gives them all her support.

For more information on American Diabetes Month, visit http://www.stopdiabetes.com/.

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