Addressing common misconceptions of type 1 diabetes

Sponsored by Sanofi

Sometimes it takes another person to notice signs of illness before you even realize yourself that it’s time to seek help. That was the case for Eric Tozer. He was experiencing classic symptoms of type 1 diabetes, without realizing it. When his mother said something about his significant weight loss and that she thought he might have type 1 diabetes, all Tozer could think was, “How could I have type 1 diabetes? I didn’t have any family history of it, at all.” Fortunately, he still decided to schedule a visit to the doctor. After checking his blood sugar levels and clinical symptoms, his doctor quickly diagnosed him with type 1 diabetes.

Tozer is certainly not alone. Every year, an estimated 64,000 Americans are newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. As that number continues to increase, many people may feel compelled to seek resources and information about their risk factors for type 1 diabetes, which can be an intimidating process.

Strides can be made to improve outcomes by debunking common myths about this disease. Tozer’s story highlights that the more you know early, the more you may be able to do to prepare. Here are a few misconceptions and truths to keep in mind:

Myth #1: Type 1 diabetes is a juvenile disease

A common misunderstanding of type 1 diabetes is that it’s predominantly diagnosed in children. In fact, for a long time, it was incorrectly referred to as “juvenile diabetes.” While that name does have merit in some respects, as type 1 diabetes does usually develop and is diagnosed during childhood and young adulthood, individuals at any age can develop it. Tozer is a noteworthy example, as he was diagnosed at age 22. Interestingly, recent studies show that more than half the people who are newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes are diagnosed as adults.

Myth #2: Type 1 diabetes is caused by lifestyle factors

You might be more familiar with type 2 diabetes, which can be prevented or delayed with lifestyle changes such as eating healthy or staying active. When it comes to type 1 diabetes, no one currently knows how to prevent the disease. Type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake), meaning that anyone — even the most active or health-conscious individuals — can still be at risk of developing it.

Myth #3: People without a family history of type 1 diabetes are not at risk

While having a first- or second-degree family member does significantly increase your risk of developing type 1 diabetes (by up to 15 times), nearly 90% of those who develop the condition do not have a family history at all. Currently, the risk factors of type 1 diabetes are still being researched. At the moment, there are environmental factors and exposure to some viral infections that can be linked to heightened risk of developing the disease — but more research is needed. Right now, the best way to understand your risk is to speak to your doctor and undergo blood testing to screen for autoantibodies associated with type 1 diabetes.

Myth #4: If you don’t have symptoms of type 1 diabetes, you don’t need to be concerned

It can take months or years before symptoms of type 1 diabetes are noticeable, especially because early symptoms (nausea, vomiting, or stomach pains) are often similar to other health conditions. However, once noticeable common symptoms arise, such as increased thirst and urination, unexplained weight loss and blurred vision, a person is already in the final stage of type 1 diabetes where the body is no longer able to make enough insulin, blood sugar is high and medical crisis situations become more likely. As Tozer described it, the difference between managing noticeable symptoms or an early diagnosis can be compared to “jumping into the deep end versus walking into the pool.” The previously mentioned blood tests can detect type 1 diabetes before any noticeable symptoms arise — getting screened is a small step that can make a big impact in disease management.

A type 1 diabetes diagnosis doesn’t have to be scary. By dispelling common misconceptions about this disease and its associated risk factors, we can begin changing the story about type 1 diabetes. Not knowing is simply no longer an option. Talk to your doctor about early screening.

As Tozer said, “Blood tests can give people an opportunity to prepare for the future, which is a true game changer.” Take control of the future by joining The 1 Pledge movement, led by Sanofi, at The1Pledge.com. Follow and use #ScreenForType1 to join the conversation on social media.

Sanofi does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment — information is provided for educational purposes only. Your doctor is the best source of health information. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about your health or treatment.

Eric Tozer is a paid spokesperson for Sanofi.

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