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Faces of diabetes

WORTHINGTON -- More than 15,000 children are diagnosed with type I diabetes in the U.S. each year, which is more than 40 kids a day. A total of 1.6 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in people ages 20 years or older in 2007.

These figures come from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), whose mission is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research.

Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. While diagnosis most often occurs in childhood and adolescence, it can and does strike adults as well. To stay alive, people with type I diabetes must take multiple insulin injections daily or continually infuse insulin through a pump. They must also test their blood sugar several times per day. While trying to balance insulin doses with their food intake and daily activities, people with this form of diabetes must always be prepared for serious hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemic (high blood sugar) reactions.

"Both children and adults like me who live with type I diabetes need to be mathematicians, physicians, personal trainers and dieticians all rolled into one. We need to be constantly factoring and adjusting, making frequent finger sticks to check blood sugars, and giving ourselves multiple daily insulin injections just to stay alive," stated JDRF International Chairwoman, Mary Tyler Moore on the JDRF Web site.

Despite rigorous attention to maintaining a meal plan, exercise regimen and always injecting the proper amount of insulin, many other factors can adversely affect efforts to tightly control blood sugar levels including stress, hormonal changes, periods of growth, physical activity, medications, illness, infection and fatigue.

Diabetes carries the threat of devastating complications that can include skin infections and disorders, neuropathy, heart disease, high blood pressure, pregnancy complications, kidney disease and potential loss of sight.

In November, which is Diabetes Awareness Month, the Daily Globe will run a story each Friday featuring a "face" of diabetes -- everyday people who live their lives while coping with the complications of a disease that affects millions of Americans.