This Month

A lot has changed over this past month. Mostly good things. 20170721_074149

First, and most importantly, my depression is pretty much gone. I finally pinned down what was making it flare so bad the past few years and figured out how best to deal with it (get it under control). It’s a complicated story full of many linked triggers and contributors. So many I didn’t even list all of them here.

It had been a number of different things that compounded to cause and ultimately make worse the depression and anxiety. It all began with the unrelentingly horrific pain of my diseased heart. A couple of years of constant, debilitating, pain that doctors could not properly diagnose and treat will certainly cause a depression. Then the realization that I had a heart condition and the sudden and frightening massive heart surgery that changed my life forever just fed the depression. Then the year long struggle with my eyes; eye surgeries, loss of driver license (independence), and dealing with a forever “droopy” eyelid fed the depression even more.

I know a lot of people who are reading this and thinking, “it’s all in how you look at it, I know it’s difficult, but just think happy and the depression will fade”.  NO! That’s not how this works, that’s not how any of this works!

I’m not done with the story…

All of the body’s systems are related.  ALL of them. That’s how the human body works; different systems do different things, but they all work together to make a living, functioning being. A person with type 1 diabetes has a chronic hormonal auto-immune disease. Anything that involves hormones, even one specific hormone (insulin) affects the entire body, even the chemicals that regulate emotion and psychological balance.

It’s not a matter of “thinking happy thoughts”, it’s all about chemical and hormonal balance; it’s physical.

Yes, I could have, and did, “look on the bright side”, but that did nothing to change how I felt because I had no control over my chemical and hormonal functions, and since my body was ill, neither did it.

Anyway, moving on to the other causes of this dark time in my life. Not long after the heart surgery and eye surgeries (4 in one year), we moved into a new home. It was a nice home in a quiet neighborhood with nice neighbors. Also, it just so happened to be surrounded by large trees and buildings that made it a very dark home. Even when all the shades were open, the house was dark. There was very little natural sunlight. Since I was home all the time (no job and no ability to drive and already depressed and developing agoraphobia) I got virtually no sunlight exposure. Both darkness and lack of sunlight exposure caused a depletion of vitamin D which feeds depression as well as promoting other illnesses.

So I fell even deeper into depression over those two years.

Also during this time I was gaining weight even though I was trying to lose, and was diagnosed with the vitamin D deficiency, as well as other illnesses that are chronic. This all fed the depression.

Finally, we moved. The home we moved into is very sunny due to many windows and not much to block the sunlight from coming in.  With the new exposure to sunlight (and taking Vitamin D supplements) my body was able to lift out of the depression a little bit.

But over the next few months I struggled with a sudden and debilitating case of thyroiditis that eventually left me with hypothyroidism.  A very prominent symptom, and you might say side effect, of hypothyroidism is depression because the thyroid controls hormone levels.

My endocrinologist prescribed Levothyroxine, a synthetic thyroid replacement hormone, and over the past several months has been keeping an eye on my thyroid levels and adjusting the medication to get me at the perfect levels.

Well, during most of the time that the above story takes place, I, of course, had been trying to fight the depression and anxiety. I struggled to figure out just what was causing it and why it was so bad. I could be naive and assume it was just because I was going through emotionally tough times, but I’m not ignorant and I understand that depression is so much more complex than just how you feel. I knew there was an underlying physical issue going on.

I went to therapy to help with the emotional/psychological part of the issue, which helped a bit. I went on medication to ease the chemical imbalances, which helped a bit. But the depression and high anxiety persisted.

And I am the type of person who insists on finding the root cause and “curing” the illness, not just treating the symptoms. But, as someone who has more than one incurable disease, I understand that not all illnesses are curable.  But, I fight on to gain control!

With my health becoming more stable, my depression and anxiety naturally lessened. Especially with getting the thyroid issue under control. Just this past month, with the raise in Levo dose, I feel so much better!

I stopped my depression medication which was it’s own ordeal, but feel even better without it than I ever felt on it!

I started taking St. John’s Wart which is claimed to “promote a positive mood” even though there are plenty of scientific studies that do not show that it does anything at all to state of mood. It may just be a placebo effect, but I do feel a tad bit better.

I’ve also been working on being more physically active which we all know helps the body to balance those feel good chemicals a little bit.

All in all, I have come completely out of my depressive, anxious illness and feel emotionally and psychologically better than I have in a long time.

 

On another topic, this month I was diagnosed with yet another incurable illness. I am not going to tell you what it is because I still have not completely wrapped my mind around all of it… I need time to ‘deal’ before I talk openly about it. According to my doctor, I’ve probably had it since childhood (we traced symptoms all the way back to around 7 years old) but most people who have it never show any symptoms… but because I am immune-compromised (Type 1 diabetics are considered to be) this is probably why I have had disease specific symptoms over the past few years. There is no cure, but as with all my incurable illnesses, it can be controlled.

So I began to take immune health promoting supplements (Vitamin C, Cod Liver Oil, Vitamin B complex, a multivitamin, Vitamin D) as well as getting more exercise, which we all know promotes immune health, and continue to try to eat healthy and keep my blood sugar under control.

It seems to be helping. If anything, I feel better all around!

 

So, in conclusion, I feel great! I hope to continue to keep my depression and anxiety at the minimum and keep up with the increased exercise which really helps with all my current issues.

Kick Your Own Ass

Many people, diabetic and non, are not aware that having type 1 diabetes puts one at much higher risk of developing other illnesses, especially certain autoimmune diseases/conditions. I am not speaking of diabetic complications such as heart disease, gastroparisis, or neuropathy, I am speaking of diseases not caused by diabetes or one’s level of BG control. I am talking about rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s, celiac disease, Addison’s,  autoimmune gastritis, pernicious anemia, vitiligo, just to name a few.

Before I continue let me point out that I am not a doctor, scientist, or in any way even close to an expert on the subject I have chosen for today’s blog post. I am writing this from a very personal point of view and do not intend to impart much in depth knowledge on any illnesses mentioned.

The points I would like to discuss are as follows:

  1. Why do so many doctor’s not educate their newly diagnosed type 1 patients regarding their higher risk of developing these other autoimmune disorders?
  2. Why are diabetics at higher risk? How many type 1’s really do end up with one or more additional conditions and how does that affect their health, lifestyle, and life expectancy?
  3. What does this say for type 2’s? Are they at the same or similar risk?
  4. Does level of control of BG affect level of risk one way or the other like it does for  diabetic complications?

Let me add in here a quick rundown of definitions/descriptions.

auto

Autoimmune Disorder/Condition/Disease – A disease in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells.

Rheumatoid Arthritis – An autoimmune chronic inflammatory disorder. This condition typically affects the small joints of the hands and feet but can affect other parts of the body as well. Anyone can develop this condition. Type 1 diabetics are placed at higher risk than other groups.

Hashimoto’s Disease – An autoimmune thyroid condition. Also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis. Usually results in hypothyroidism. Primarily occurs in middle-aged women but anyone can be affected and type 1’s are placed at higher risk.

Celiac Disease – A digestive autoimmune disorder. When foods with gluten are eaten it causes damage to the small intestine resulting in the inability to absorb certain nutrients. Anyone can develop celiac disease. Type 1 diabetics are at higher risk than many other groups.

Adisson’s Disease – Also known as chronic adrenal insufficiency or hypocortisolism. The adrenal glands don’t make enough cortisol, and in some cases, aldosterone. There are multiple causes for Addison’s disease, about 70% of cases are autoimmune. Anyone can develop Adisson’s (President Kennedy had it). Type 1 diabetics are at higher risk.

Autoimmune Gastritis – Inflammation of the stomach lining. There are many types of gastritis; autoimmune gastritis is caused when the body’s immune system attacks the cells of the stomach lining. Although anyone can develop autoimmune gastritis it is more common in people with other autoimmune disorders, including Hashimoto’s disease and type 1 diabetes. Autoimmune gastritis can also be associated with vitamin B-12 deficiency.

Pernicious Anemia –  A decrease in red blood cells that occurs when the intestines cannot properly absorb vitamin B12. Common causes are from gastritis (any type) or autoimmune disease. Most persons affected by pernicious anemia are over the age of 60 but persons with other autoimmune diseases are at high risk.

Vitiligo – Loss of skin and/or hair color. Occurs when the cells that produce melanin die or stop functioning. Anyone can develop vitiligo. It usually begins before age 20. Persons with autoimmune disease (including type 1 diabetes) are at higher risk of developing vitiligo.

Growing up I have always known about type 1 diabetes. I come from a family of type 1 diabetics. There are six of us; my father, an aunt, two cousins, one of my brothers, and myself. So you would think I would be very much aware of the higher risk of developing other autoimmune diseases. Nope, no one ever told me a thing about it.  I may assume that  my family was just sparing me, as a young child, from the fear and stress of knowing such a thing, but I find that improbable since we aren’t that kind of family. Good or bad, you need to know what you need to know. I can also assume I just had bad doctors or they assumed I already knew this stuff? Who knows.

As I got older and began to reach out to the diabetes community and do my own research I learned a lot of things. I learned about my increased risk for other autoimmune diseases. And I also learned that many upon many type 1 diabetics were never made aware of this risk by their doctors.  Hmmm.

WHY THE HELL NOT?!

In my experience I can say:

1. Doctors don’t like to give “bad” news unless they are obligated.

2. They often run routine lab tests (like those run regularly on type 1 diabetics that include tests for other autoimmune diseases) without explaining what those tests are for. So even if your doctor never told you about your risk, he/she is still keeping an eye on it for you. They don’t talk unless you specifically ask.

3. Most medical practices are very, very bad at educating their clients on illnesses they have or are at high risk for. It’s just diagnose, treat, and bye-bye. No in depth education whatsoever. You are on your own.

In my opinion it should be a regular practice to educate your patients (in depth) on any medical condition they have and how to care for it, especially if it is a chronic illness like type 1 diabetes. Or at least give a packet that includes a list of resources of education (books, websites, classes, support groups, etc). And this education should include letting them know what other illnesses they are now at increased risk of developing. At least give us a list to further research on our own time. So many people feel and are so lost at diagnosis and appreciate any and all information and help. This step would increase the chances that a patients care of their disease will be improved from the start and they won’t give in so easily to the feelings of fear, anger, and being totally overwhelmed that could lead to not even trying.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. Anyone who has an autoimmune disease is at higher risk of developing other autoimmune diseases. Why? This is a difficult question to answer, partly because I have almost no education of it. I can say that there is no known cause for autoimmune disease; some say it could be environmental toxins, some say genetic factors. There are a lot of studies and theories, but no absolute proofs. So, since we don’t know how it begins, it is a bit more difficult to say why one may lead to another or more.

Plain and simple, though, they are all related in the fact that they are all autoimmune diseases.  There is something wrong in that specific part of our system.

I might point out also that since we don’t know the cause it is much more difficult to find a cure. In type 1 diabetes it is not as simple as a broken pancreas…it is in our entire system, it is complex, convoluted, elaborate, serpentine (throw in any other synonym you like). I know so many of us want to blame the pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and government, for hiding or delaying a cure for the sake of making more money. And this is probably true to a certain extent. But we can not deny that diabetes is not simple in any way shape or form.

From my research I have found that about roughly 20% of type 1 diabetics also have at least one other autoimmune disease. Not a huge number, but notable. How this may affect health, lifestyle, and life expectancy depends on the individual diseases and how well they are controlled. You may live a long, happy, and healthy life, or not.

Type 2 diabetes is generally defined as a metabolic disorder and not an autoimmune disease. Although this is a hotly debated topic. As far as I have found type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that can have autoimmune qualities? Don’t quote me on this, I really am not educated well here at all.

I have found more information on people with other autoimmune diseases being at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than type 2 diabetics being at higher risk for developing any autoimmune disease. But honestly I have done tons more study on type 1 than type 2 on this particular subject.

When it comes to one’s risk of developing other autoimmune diseases I have found absolutely zero proof to support that level of control over type 1 diabetes either increases or decreases risk.

I, as always, am open to discussion, education, etc. on this topic.

Bibliography:

I have been researching this topic on and off for a few years. Unfortunately I have not kept any list of information sources. I can promise you, though, that I try very hard to only use information gathered from reliable and reputable sources. I talk to doctors, read books and articles, watch educational programs and check their sources, and, of course use websites.

Some sources I remember checking (but may or may not have used info from for this post) are:

WebMD

Mayo Clinic

NHI.gov

Diabetes Journals.org

American Diabetes Association

Joslin.org

Kids Health.org

Medscape