Juvenile Diabetes (also known as Type 1 diabetes or as Insulin–dependent diabetes) is a chronic illness in which the pancreas of the juvenile diabetic becomes non–functional. The probable cause is a viral attack that ruptures the insulin–producing beta islets which causes non–production of insulin, a hormone which is naturally produced by the pancreas to control the level of glucose in the body. It is noteworthy that juvenile diabetes is different from maturity–onset diabetes (Type 2 diabetes) which usually afflicts persons of over forty years of age. In this case, the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin due to wear and tear over a period of time. And though the pancreas often secretes insulin, the quantity is not as much as required by the body.
Contrary to this, in the case of juvenile diabetes, the pancreas does not produce any insulin at all and, therefore, the entire requirement has to be made available to the body externally in order to control blood sugar levels. Presently, insulin injection is the only means through which this can be done and there is no cure as such for juvenile diabetes. Maturity–onset diabetics can live on oral drugs, which is not possible for their juvenile counterparts.
Incidentally, juvenile diabetes was fatal until a few decades ago. Juvenile diabetics were known to live for a maximum period of six months to one year after being afflicted with the disease. It was Dr Grant and Banting who discovered insulin after having experimented the same on diabetic canines. The discovery of insulin is, therefore, a boon to juvenile diabetics as it has gifted them the promise of a fuller and normal life.
Today there are over 500 insulin–dependent juvenile diabetics who are enrolled with the J.D.F. as its regular members. Aged anywhere between a few months to late thirties and some others even older, they have to depend on at least two shots of insulin injection daily, which have to be administered for an entire lifetime for survival apart from daily blood glucose tests and urine sugar tests which are equally mandatory.
Since 18 years now, the foundation has been conducting monthly meetings and annual camps that are aimed at educating the juvenile diabetic and his family. The lectures, which are held in Mumbai every month, revolve around different aspects of a juvenile diabetic’s life and how one should cope with the same. A particular subject is selected at every monthly meet and the same is discussed at length with active participation from the members who are free to raise their doubts and queries. The four–day camp which is usually held at some location in close vicinity of Mumbai is a classroom for practical training in which the juvenile diabetic is given thorough information on various diabetes–related topics which cannot be otherwise taken up satisfactorily at the monthly meetings and which require comprehensive and detailed teaching.