If you don’t have diabetes, you probably don’t think about it much. If you do have it, you probably think about it way more than you’d like.
This year’s focus is beating diabetes, a disease where there is too much glucose (sugar) in the blood. This occurs either because the pancreas has problems making a hormone called insulin (which is the case with Type 1 diabetes) that clears glucose out of the bloodstream, or because the body’s cells have developed a resistance to insulin, and so the pancreas cannot make enough insulin to deal with the amount of glucose in the blood (which is the case with Type 2 diabetes).
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that usually appears in childhood or when you’re in your teens, but Type 2 diabetes has a reputation for being an “adult” disease. However, a new World Health Organization report released for World Health Day says Type 2 diabetes is now being diagnosed more and more in teens. In fact, statistics show that nearly 167,000 kids and teens under 20 in the U.S. have Type 1 diabetes, and more than 20,000 have Type 2 diabetes
If you’re a teen with diabetes, you know that managing the condition entails watching your diet, monitoring blood sugar levels, and taking medication if necessary. But there may be some aspects of your life you wish your friends understood about your condition, which you have to live with every day. Here’s a look at just a few:
Yes, it’s true that if you have diabetes, you have to watch what you eat, particularly carbohydrates (since those get broken down into glucose faster than other kinds of foods). But even though maintaining a healthy diet is extremely important for anyone with diabetes, it’s a myth that people with the condition cannot at all eat “junk” food. If you’re living with diabetes, you can still eat pizza. Actually, you can eat most things as long as you’re careful that it doesn’t spike blood sugar. So, it’s better to save the “food police” act for, well, never — and instead ask to be educated about how people with diabetes eat.
Having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t get your license. But when you get behind the wheel, you have to first make sure your blood sugar is stable — and that may require keeping the right kind of snacks on hand in case glucose levels drop while driving. And in some states, there may be special regulations to follow if you have diabetes (you can learn more about state-by-state regulations here).
Among other things your period makes difficult, menstruation can mess with diabetes care. According to Everyday Health, hormone fluctuations that occur during menstruation can mess with blood sugar levels, which could require careful monitoring of potential blood sugar spikes. Period tracking apps are also a useful tool.
Being sexually active is a big responsibility for anyone. While there are certainly must-dos for everyone — using protection, getting tested for sexually transmitted infections, and making sure you’re completely ready and consenting to any element of sex before engaging in it — if you have diabetes, blood sugar levels are also something to consider. Particularly with Type 1 diabetes, the condition might mean you need a carbohydrate snack afterward. And while most forms of birth control are safe if you have diabetes, some hormonal options could affect blood sugar.
Written by Brittney McNamara