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Diabetes mellitus and its complications affect over 12 million people in this country -- that's one in 20 Americans -- and five million adults don't even know they have the disease. The segment shows Dane, who has type I diabetes, the kind of diabetes in which the pancreas secretes little or no insulin. Dane's body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose , but because he doesn't have enough insulin , the glucose can't leave the bloodstream and get into his body's cells. The segment shows Dane, who has type I diabetes, the kind of diabetes in which the pancreas secretes little or no insulin. The blood carrying this excess sugar passes through the kidneys and causes an increased loss of body fluids. This need for replacement fluids leaves Dane feeling excessively thirsty. To feel good and live an active life, Dane injects insulin twice a day, tests his blood sugars, and balances his diet and exercise. The cause of type I diabetes is not known for certain. The greatest evidence points to an autoimmune process that destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas . It is unclear whether diabetes is inherited, but it is believed that some individuals may be genetically susceptible to getting diabetes. In these susceptible individuals, an environmental factor such as a viral infection may trigger the autoimmune process that leads to type I diabetes. Type II diabetes, in which the body makes insulin but not enough, is associated with advancing age and obesity. Almost all cases of type I diabetes occur before the age of 40, with a peak incidence of around age 14. However, of all the people who have diabetes, only about 10% are type I; the rest are type II. Many people with type II diabetes don't have to inject insulin, but can control it by eating properly or taking medications that stimulate insulin production. Both types of diabetes, however, require balancing acts: Diet must be varied; food intake must be scheduled; and sugar consumption must be moderate. Promising medical advancements may make life for those with diabetes easier and less restrictive. Pancreatic transplants and Islets of Langerhans transplants might eliminate the need for insulin injections for some patients; computer-controlled blood-sugar monitoring and insulin administration may improve the day-to-day lives of many people who have diabetes.


Find out more about the causes of diabetes. This card game will help students understand the cause-and-effect relationships of diabetes, that those with type I diabetes are not responsible for having diabetes, and that there is treatment. Materials
  • 3" x 5" notecards OR a pad of removable sticky notes
  • pencils or pens
  1. On separate cards, list plausible causes of diabetes, symptoms, statements for understanding it, and treatments, along with some inaccurate ideas about the causes of diabetes. Use the INSIGHTS and VOCABULARY sections as resources for your listings. Here are some examples:
    • I ate too much sugar.
    • White blood cells didn't attack a germ that got into my body, so the germ was able to attack my pancreas.
    • I didn't behave in class.
    • My stomach stopped making insulin.
    • I am overweight.
    • I caught it from another diabetic.
    • Islets of Langerhans are clusters of cells found in the pancreas that secrete insulin
  2. Make enough cards so that there is one for each student. You may duplicate information on more than one card, but do not make more than three cards with any one fact.
  3. Divide the class into four teams. Have each student chose a card and take it back to his or her team. The objective is for each team to gather a set of cards that correctly explains how diabetes comes about, its symptoms, and treatment.
  4. RULES: Any member may trade a card with a member of another team. There can be only one member per team on his or her feet at any one time. Set a time limit, or play until one team gets a complete set of cards and wins. The winning team must explain the statements on its set of cards.


    Almonte, P. and T. Desmond. (1991) The facts about diabetes. New York:
    Crestwood House.
    American Diabetes Association. (1987) Diabetes in the family. New York:
    Prentice Hall.
    Moynihan, P.M., B. Balik, S. Eliason, and B. Haig. (1988) Diabetes youth
    curriculum. Wayzata, MN: Diabetes Center.
    Olsen, M.E. (1992) Diabetes management: The balancing act. Mayo (Spring):
    Additional sources of information:
    American Association of Diabetes Educators
    500 N. Michigan Ave. Suite 1400
    Chicago, IL 60611
    (312) 661-1700
    American Diabetes Association
    Information Service Center
    P.O. Box 25757
    1660 Duke Street
    Alexandria, VA 22314
    (703) 549-1500
    (800) 232-3472