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August 19, 2013

Balancing act: Woman living 64 years with diagnosis

Warner, 66, recognized for more than 50 years of life with diabetes

(Continued)

“I always remember doing it,” said Warner. “I started taking my own shots the summer I was 5 years old.”

It’s unknown exactly what puts a person at greater risk to develop type 1 diabetes, according to Karen Shidler, a certified diabetes educator at Logansport Memorial Hospital.

“If you have a first-degree relative with type 1 diabetes” — that is, a parent or sibling — “you’re at a little greater risk, but not much,” Shidler said.

A study of near relatives of people with type 1 diabetes is currently under way to try to find out more, she said. “They’re finding that people have these antibodies that are eventually going to destroy the cells in the pancreas” that produce insulin, “even years before they develop type 1 diabetes.”

Most cases of type 1 diabetes start in childhood, usually around 12 or 13 years of age, Shidler said, but some adults develop the disorder, too, such as Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

If it’s not controlled, diabetes causes problems like high blood sugar or high blood pressure. Both damage a person’s blood vessels.

“The more glucose [blood sugar] that’s stuck on those red blood cells, the stiffer they become. Think about anything candy-coated,” illustrated Shidler. It’s a particular problem in tiny blood vessels in the heart, kidneys, eyes and toes. “Unfortunately diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness.”

While Warner no longer has her sight, it’s only indirectly related to diabetes. At 23 years old, she underwent a laser treatment to try to reverse some of the deterioration that had started happening in the blood vessels in her eyes. The treatment went wrong, and instead, the laser burned a hole in her retina. Her visual impairment worsened over about three years, during which time “I learned to slow down and not do everything so quickly,” she said.

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