I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 24 years old and my diagnosis story is unremarkable. I started noticing that I had an unquenchable thirst and was drinking glass after glass of water. I was going to the loo a lot. At first I just put that down to being really thirsty. I lost over six kilograms in a week. And I had bone-crushing exhaustion like I’d never felt before.
I tried to ignore it all with excuses such as ‘I’m really busy and just need to take a holiday’ and ‘I probably have a low level virus. I just need rest’ and ‘I’m planning a wedding, running a business and have a super busy life. Of course I’m run down.’
Except, after a couple of days, I was getting worse and couldn’t go for more than half an hour with running to the loo. I made an appointment to see my GP who sent me off for a blood test. A couple of days later, when the lab results came back, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
I saw an endocrinologist (diabetes specialist) that day and was started on insulin immediately, being taught how to inject the life-saving drug into my stomach. The situation was overwhelming – how could a diagnosis of a life-long medical condition be anything else? – but it was undramatic.
I’m glad it was unremarkable. I’m glad that I was not admitted to hospital in a critical condition or comatose. I’m glad my introduction to type 1 diabetes did not involve a dash to A and E or any time in ICU. I’m glad that I was able to stay out of hospital, only requiring day trips to my new diabetes team for a few days to learn about how to manage life with type 1 diabetes.
But that is not the case for a lot of children and adults. A lot of people are diagnosed under far more traumatic and serious circumstances. They may have had symptoms for some time – the same symptoms I experienced - and visited their doctor only to be told they had a virus or a urinary tract infection, and perhaps given antibiotics. Some children are diagnosed with ‘growing pains’ and told to rest up a little.
In over 600 cases each year, children and adults need to be hospitalised because the early signs of type 1 diabetes were missed. Their diagnosis takes place amongst tubes and bright lights and beeping machines, with healthcare professionals rushing around them. They may be in a coma, some told they were literally hours from death when they arrived at the hospital.
It’s National Diabetes Week in Australia and one element of Diabetes Australia’s national campaign aims to raise awareness of the early signs of type 1 diabetes. We want more people to know the symptoms and to think about type 1 diabetes if they notice they, or their child, are exhibiting ‘the 4Ts of type 1 diabetes’.
What are the 4Ts of type 1 diabetes?
Thirst – Being really thirsty.
Toilet – Going to the toilet a lot.
Tired – Feeling very tired.
Thinner – Losing weight.
What you don't know about your body. Post continues...
If you or your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, see your doctor and ask about type 1 diabetes. It’s about time we all knew the early signs.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the immune system decided to attack the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. It cannot be prevented and people with type 1 diabetes require insulin daily (delivered via injection or insulin pump).
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin. It has strong genetic risk factors by may be able to be prevented in about 58% of cases. For more information visit Diabetes Australia.
To hear about a lovely little girl called Isabelle's diabetes diagnosis, as told by her mother Fleur, you can watch here.
Renza Scibilia is a Melbourne woman who writes a blog about real life with diabetes. She is a diabetes consumer advocate, activist and spokesperson and has lived with type 1 diabetes for eighteen and a half years. She lives with her musician husband, almost-12-year-old daughter and a menagerie of pets in a house with too many books, guitars and boots. Right now, she is probably drinking coffee, tweeting, wearing stripes and planning her next trip to New York.