There needs to be a change in the way people think about Diabetes

Reilly Swennes, Design Editor

It was not until I knew a diabetic that I realized how debilitating of a disease it was. Unfortunately, most people will live their entire lives without knowing the truth about diabetes and will continue to make ill-founded assumptions and jokes about an illness that kills more people than cancer.

Diabetes is an autoimmune condition that affects 29 million Americans. There are two main types of diabetes — Type 1, in which the body cannot produce its own insulin and Type 2, in which the body does not use insulin properly or make enough insulin. While Type 2 diabetes can be preventable, there are some people who are genetically predisposed to the illness and cannot prevent the onset of Type 2 any more than someone with Type 1. In fact, over 50% of Type 2 cases are genetically linked and are not a cause of lifestyle choices.

The lack of education on this condition is contributing to the very damaging stigma associated with the disease. These off-hand comments can be extremely discouraging, especially for young children and adolescents. Contrary to popular belief, diabetes is not caused by eating a bunch of candy. Food is not “diabetes on a plate,” and an ICEE is not “liquid diabetes.” When one in 10 Americans suffer from either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, chances are the offensive jokes made about the disease do not go unnoticed. Every day, a diabetic has to worry about the increased risk of (to name a few) heart disease, blindness, neuropathy, coma and death. At any given moment, they could go into diabetic ketoacidosis, in which their blood sugar is dangerously high, turning their blood acidic. Someone with this condition has to constantly monitor their blood sugar and make sure that they have the equipment necessary for them to live. Many consider diabetes an invisible disease, but for the diabetic, it is a painful and expensive burden.

Diabetic care is a $322 billion industry. Insulin pumps, test strips, meters, insulin, doctors visits and other equipment necessary to live with this condition all cost money. On average, the medical expenses for a diabetic with healthcare are $13,700 per year according to the American Diabetic Association. And if you look at that cost over a lifetime, it is clear that having this condition is not only a physical, but also a financial burden. Additionally, some brands of insulin have seen a 160% increase in price. Insulin is fairly inexpensive to produce, yet rising costs make it almost impossible for many to obtain the drug necessary for their survival. In fact, if drug companies cannot profit from new advancements in treatment methods or potential cures, they are seldom introduced to the public, regardless of whether or not it could improve the quality of life for those with the disease.

Unfortunately, the ignorance in regards to this debilitating condition is displayed not only by regular people, but also well-known celebrities and CEOs. Recently, CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman criticized diabetics over twitter, blaming their eating habits and carelessness for their disease. In response, Nick Jonas, who was diagnosed in his teens with Type 1, took to twitter to try to educate the Glassman. Still, Jonas was met with unyielding resistance despite the facts he and many others presented. Since his diagnosis, Jonas has been an advocate for the illness and has worked towards putting an end to the damaging stereotype that all diabetics are fat and lazy.

If people began to educate themselves, hopefully the harmful, misinformed jokes would end. Every year, nearly two million people in the United States are diagnosed with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and every year over 200,000 people die from the disease directly, with many others dying from diabetes-related implications, such as organ failure, heart attack and infection. You would not joke about cancer, so why is it any different for diabetes?