Tammy: Hey Eric, you're pretty quiet today, are you OK.

Eric: I went to the doctor yesterday and he told me I have type 2 diabetes. I'm a little scared. I don't even understand what diabetes is.

Tammy: You know, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a couple of months ago. It can seem scary at first, but once you understand it better, you can learn how to manage it.

Eric: Can you explain it to me?

Tammy: Sure. Diabetes affects how your body uses a type of sugar called glucose. Glucose comes from carbohydrates or carbs in the food you eat. Some foods have more carbs than others. Glucose travels through your blood to get to your cells which use energy. Glucose can't enter the cells by itelf; glucose needs insulin, a hormone made by your pancreas to actually enter the cells.

Eric: What's a pancreas?

Tammy: The pancreas is an organ in your gut that plays an important role in helping your body break down food and control blood glucose levels.

Eric: So...what happens with diabetes?

Tammy: In people with diabetes, glucose has trouble getting into the cells, so it builds up in the blood, especially after you eat. This is called hyperglycemia.

Eric: Yeah. Hyperglycemia made me tired, hungry and thirsty, and I was peeing alot.

Tammy: It can also make you lose weight and blur your vision.

Eric: My doc said I have type 2 diabetes, what other types are there?

Tammy: There are two types, type 1 and type 2. In type 2 diabetes the pancreas still produces insulin, but either the cells start ignoring the command to let glucose in or in some cases the pancreas can't keep up with the amount of insulin the body needs. 

Eric: How did I get type 2 diabetes? I thought only adults got it.

Tammy: People who aren't a healthy weight, aren't physically active or who don't eat a healthy diet are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, but being physically active and staying at healthy body weight by eating right can help manage type 2 diabetes. Medicine taken once or twice a day can also help to lower blood glucose and help your insulin to work better. If you do all those things and your blood glucose is still not well controlled, you may need to take insulin.

Eric: Is type 1 diabetes caused by the same things?

Tammy: No. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. Your immune system normally protects you from germs, but in type 1 diabetes the immune system mistakes cells in the pancreas for bad guys and destroys them. The pancreas can no longer make insulin so glucose can't enter the cells. All people with type 1 diabetes have to take insulin everyday with every meal.

Eric: My doctor said that insulin and certain medicines can sometimes lower blood glucose too much (called hypoglycemia). It could make you feel weak, dizzy, shaky, grumpy, or confused.

Tammy: If your blood glucose goes too low, you should eat a fast-acting sugary snack, fruit juice, candy or special glucose tablets. It's important for people with diabetes to check their blood glucose multiple times a day using a blood glucose meter to make sure it's not too high or too low. Living with type 2 diabetes can be tough but with exercise, a healthy diet and sometimes medicine, it can be kept under control, and remember that having diabetes doesn't make you any different, or define who you are. It's just something you have to manage. You're still you.

Eric: Thanks Tammy. I don't feel as scared now that I understand more, and have you to turn to.

[Cheese falls off pizza. Eric and Tammy laugh.]

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