Seven million Americans have a chronic disease and don't even know it. That's why health advocates use this month to spread the message about it.
Diabetes shows up in a couple different ways and dealing with it could change your daily routine, but one Rockford resident, who has the disease, says it's possible to keep control of your life.
Sara Upton was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 3rd grade, at what was supposed to be a routine check-up.
"It was just one of those experiences where, 'Oh it's going to be a doctor visit,' and then they told you to pack your stuff for a stay in the hospital because your whole life is going to change." -Sara says.
Sara got out of the hospital just in time for Halloween. The holiday many kids look forward to marked one of the first big changes in her new life.
"You get all that candy and you want to gorge like you always have, but my mom picked out two pieces out of my whole bag and said 'You can have these and that's it.' That's probably what kids should do, but it was not something I wanted to hear with the new life adjustment."
Sara says with time, managing diabetes became routine. A pump provides her body with the insulin it can't produce. But, there were ups and downs, like with balancing the disease and staying active. Sara played varsity volleyball all four years of high school, earning an All-Area award as a senior. Even with a good grasp on treating diabetes, low blood sugar levels would sometimes take her out of games.
"Feeling bad about it or wanting people to feel bad for you for having it, it doesn't change the fact that you have it. So every game, every day, I still did my best and played to my ability and if the disease affected me, I would handle it. You can feel bad for a little bit about it, but don't let it bring you down because it really is a controllable disease. Just take care of yourself and if you ever have questions, ask. There's no harm in that." -she says.
The most common forms of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2. Both can be hereditary. Rockford area doctors say dealing with the disease can mean balancing your treatment regimen, diet and exercise. If you're one of the millions of Americans who have diabetes, but don't know it, there are signs to look out for.
"You're excessively thirsty, you're excessively hungry and you're extremely tired. If you have Type 1 diabetes, the classical symptom is you just start losing weight. In Type 2, you can have numbness in your feet, tingling in your feet, blurry vision." -says OSF St. Anthony Endocrinology Medical Director Dr. Sameer Ansar.
If diabetes goes untreated, Dr. Ansar says it can lead to complications like strokes, blindness and kidney failure.
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