This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when the body loses its ability to produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar levels.
In response to growing concerns about the health threat posed by diabetes, the World Health Organization has named November 14 as World Diabetes Day, which aims to raise awareness and funds to support the disease.
According to Diabetes Canada, there are more than 5.7 million Canadians currently living with diagnosed diabetes (either type 1 or type 2).
Additionally, there are 11.7 million Canadians living with pre-diabetes – an undiagnosed form that can progress to type 2 diabetes if left unchecked.
Considering the risks associated with diabetes, it’s important to learn more about the condition and the warning signs to get an early diagnosis.
What are the different types of diabetes?
According to the Government of Canada, there are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational.
type 1 diabetes it is an autoimmune disease. The body destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, which means that the person is dependent on an external source of insulin. This type usually develops in children and young people, but it can also occur in adults.
Type 2 diabetes it is a metabolic disorder. This happens when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin and/or when the body does not properly use the insulin produced. People who are overweight, physically inactive, or have a family history of diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. It usually appears in adults over age 40, but it can also occur at a younger age.
Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women when high blood sugar levels develop during pregnancy. Although this type usually goes away after the baby is born, it does increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes?
The early signs and symptoms are pretty much the same for type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The most common symptoms of the condition are as follows:
Weight change (gain or loss)
Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
Frequent or recurrent infections
Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
If you or a loved one has any of the above symptoms, or suspect you may have diabetes, contact a medical professional as soon as possible.
Read on to learn more about the personal and unique experience of Connor Chambers, who has been living with Type 1 diabetes since 2010.
‘Looking back, there were clear warning signs’
Chambers began experiencing unusual symptoms in elementary school, but originally thought nothing of it.
“When I was young, I would eat a very sugary or very sugary piece of food and end up feeling really bad afterwards,” recalled the 27-year-old in an interview with Yahoo Canada. 🇧🇷I didn’t think it was a big deal, but it was definitely an early sign of type 1 diabetes.”
However, in 2010, the symptoms became more evident. He became “very thirsty”, which caused frequent urination, and despite drinking “more than 10 liters of water a day”, he was unable to quench his thirst.
“These symptoms prompted me to see a doctor. They sent me for blood tests and my glucose was extremely high because I had no insulin in my body,” he said.
When he was diagnosed, Chambers was initially concerned about the physical aspects of treating the disease — in particular, the fact that he would have to manually inject his body with insulin.
“I was worried about having needles on a daily basis… it sounded daunting. But I learned that the needles weren’t the biggest problem — there’s so much more at play and other impacts on your health if you don’t,” he explained.
‘You can still live a full life with diabetes’
As Chambers learned more about his condition and how to manage it, there was still one thing on his mind – would he still be able to live a full life?
“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do everything I wanted to do and I didn’t know if that would still allow me to be successful,” he said. “Ultimately, I made lifestyle adjustments that helped me live a very fulfilling life.”
According to Chambers, the biggest challenge to living with diabetes is the “time commitment” required to maintain good health.
“It’s exhausting to think about the disease every day. Every time you eat, exercise, go to bed, wake up… You’re always considering your blood sugar and how best to manage it,” he revealed.
Despite this, Chambers quickly learned that his illness does not define him and he wants others living with the illness to know that there is hope.
“With type 1 or any type of diabetes, it doesn’t detract from your ability to succeed. There are things to be concerned about and manage, but that doesn’t mean people living with diabetes can’t do certain things,” he added.
‘Stay consistent and build good habits’
When it comes to counseling for people living with diabetes, Chambers was a beacon of hope.
“There’s a community of people with diabetes and it’s important to connect with those people,” he suggested. “Don’t let diabetes control you either. A friend once said, ‘You can be a victim or a winner,’ so it’s important to keep moving forward, even in tough times.”
Despite the “extra weight and burden” that comes with managing diabetes, Chambers also explained that developing a routine with healthy habits is one of the keys to success.
“Diabetes can be challenging at the most inconvenient times. But consistency can help you stay on track,” he said. “It’s also important to be honest about your overall health and needs with diabetes to get the support you deserve, but you shouldn’t be afraid of the condition.”