These days, Rice is managing just fine. She checks her blood sugar four times a day and gives herself shots of insulin. The disease that nearly took her life is under control, and she now seeks to raise awareness and make sure others don't ignore the symptoms. "If you think you have any chance that you might have diabetes, for God's sake, go get the blood-sugar test," Rice said. "It's a simple test. There's nothing to it. Absolutely nothing."
Rice has type 1 diabetes, but the most common diabetes is type 2, which comes on gradually in adulthood, and is often associated with obesity or excess weight. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes are not dramatic, and patients are diagnosed only after having a blood test.
In contrast, the symptoms of type 1 diabetes — which used to be called juvenile diabetes because it usually comes on in childhood or adolescence — are much more dramatic, as was the case with Rice. Type 1 diabetes can strike adults, too. Its typical symptoms are excessive thirst and hunger and frequent urination. Rice said she experienced weight loss but not the other symptoms.
Type 2 diabetes can often be controlled through diet, exercise and oral drugs, but people with type 1 always need to take insulin because the disease prompts their body to wipe out the cells that make insulin.
The amount of insulin that type 1 sufferers need to keep blood sugar within normal range varies. In the past, doctors relied on urine samples to gauge insulin levels, but now patients can get much better control by using finger-stick blood tests that provide minute-by-minute readings of blood-sugar level.
Some people who have trouble with the finger-stick test opt to use a pump to get a steady supply of insulin rather than periodic injections.
One of the big problems with diabetes is the complications associated with it, such as the long-term risk of damage to the eyes, heart and kidney. That is why it is crucial to have careful medical supervision to control blood-sugar levels and prevent complications.