Your early 20s are often a time of major life change. You may have just moved away from home for the first time, started college, or joined the military. Your health care or medical routine may have become unbalanced or even nonexistent. But these life changes make it more important than ever to speak up if you think you may have Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) or another autoimmune disease.
Many people think diabetes is a condition that mostly affects children. The fact is Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is just as common among adults, but commonly misdiagnosed – often as Type 2 Diabetes. And while there’s a lot of information and resources available to parents of young children living with T1D, there’s a significant lack of data and information on the prevalence of this condition among adults – especially young adults. For instance, researchers tend to divide the national or global population into age groups of “younger than 20,” “between 20 and 65,” and “65 and older.”
This makes it pretty difficult to determine how many young adults are actually affected. It also indicates how little attention this group receives. To make sure you’re informed and prepared, here are some tips and resources for understanding T1D and managing it effectively.
Recognizing symptoms and asking for help
Symptoms of T1D – an increased appetite, unexpected weight loss, or sudden vision changes – tend to manifest quickly in young adults, and may be easy to dismiss as signs of other illnesses. It’s especially important to watch out for signs of increased thirst and the need to take more bathroom breaks than usual.
If you’re feeling like something just isn’t right, don’t ignore or hide it. Reach out for help, to family and friends, and to whatever doctor can see you. Even though you’re responsible for yourself now, you’ll need their support more than you might think.
Caroline Malone, a sophomore at George Washington University living with T1D, explains that although you may be living on your own, you don’t have to face diabetes alone. “College is a hard time, it’s a transitional time in general. But you realize how widespread [T1D] is, that more people have a connection to it than you may think.”
Resources for understanding and managing your Type 1 Diabetes
Just as there isn’t much data on young adults living with T1D, it can also be hard to find relevant information and resources. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of organizations, online networks, and blogs that offer insider advice on how to understand and manage this condition in your early 20s.
- Beyond Type 1 was founded in 2015 by a group of celebrities – Juliet de Baubigny, Nick Jonas, Sarah Lucas and Sam Talbot – to educate the world about T1D and raise money for a cure. They have lots of resources for young adults, and keep you up to speed on recent research.
- Lilly Diabetes is an organization that supports programs for young adults learning to take full responsibility for their condition.
- College Diabetes Network connects young adults living with T1D with the resources and support they need to navigate the college experience. Their blog offers lots of tips and advice from students themselves.
- Drinking with Diabetes is a helpful resource for young adults learning to handle alcohol responsibly with T1D.
- Students with Diabetes is an organization creating community among young adults between the ages of 18-30 with T1D across the country.
- Diabetes Forecast is a lifestyle magazine for people with diabetes, and has published plenty of helpful articles and resources for young people, such as this blog post.
- Insulin Nation is a more general diabetes news platform for people living with T1D.
- Type 1 Nation is an online support network for people with T1D, their families and friends.
Building a network of support
Aside from online resources, building a support system is incredibly important. Caroline acknowledges that this can be difficult. “You feel like ‘I don’t want to seem like that sick kid, I don’t want to be labeled as that.’ But it’s okay. Being able to be open with teachers, friends, and colleagues is really helpful. Having them have your back is really nice, and if I wasn’t that open, I don’t think I’d have the same experience.”
No matter how much you know or how much you read, learning to manage Type 1 Diabetes isn’t going to be easy. But you’re not alone. And you can do this.
March 22, 2018
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This blog does not provide medical advice, nor is it a substitute
for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.