This month is Diabetes Awareness Month in the UK and it’s a time to educate and inform everyone about this condition which has an effect on so many lives.  There are many forms of diabetes, from gestational to types 1 and 2 (and of course many others) but whatever type of diabetes someone has the basic problems for all diabetics are the same.

For those who don’t know the condition that well, diabetes is an illness where someone’s body finds it hard to use or is unable to produce insulin.  The pancreas is an organ in the body which produces insulin, but for people who get diabetes this production is often impaired and their own body just doesn’t respond to the insulin.  Type 2 diabetes is the one that is most heard of, it affects the vast majority of all types of diabetics and is often associated with bad lifestyle and obesity, though this is not always the case.  Type 1 diabetes is an auto immune disease.  The body’s immune system basically attacks itself, creating antibodies which destroy the islets, the parts of the pancreas which produce insulin.  Both forms of diabetes, as well as others, have a daily effect on people.  You can’t go a day without diabetes affecting you in some way.

Although many people manage to get their diabetes well controlled, many others do not, and regardless of whether someone is well controlled or not, we all struggle daily to keep the diabetes in check.  Blood tests, where fingers are pricked with a sharp needle-like device have to be done daily, sometimes several times a day.  Medications have to be taken and for those on insulin there are mathematical calculations that sometimes have to be done to work out how much to inject.  And then there is the constant thoughts about what you are eating.  Diabetics who want good control need to keep track of what they eat and for those taking insulin daily they need to calculate how many carbohydrates are in any food they eat so they can inject the right amount of insulin.

Even if diabetics have good control and manage to live everyday well, there are still times when things can go wrong, waking up in the middle of the night with a hypo (where the blood sugar is too low and a person’s body shakes and sweats and they need to eat fast!), or having high blood sugar for no apparent reason, which leads to sluggish feeling and a general nausea in many.  And of course there are the moments when people are sick, or stressed and diabetes control can go out of the window as the body responds in various unknown ways, throwing blood sugars up and then down.

Be more understanding and aware

Diabetes doesn’t affect everyone and for the many that are affected, they are able to keep it stabilised and lead great, active and fulfilling lives, but whether someone has good control or is struggling, it’s important to raise awareness of this disease/illness/condition (I’m never quite sure what to call it).  Diabetes can be with someone for life, and it changes lives, it can change the way someone has to do things, their daily routines, forever.  If you have diabetes, and in particular if you are struggling with it, please know that you are not alone, try to reach out to others via forums or groups, or even chat to me 🙂   And if you know someone with diabetes, don’t be afraid to talk to them about it, but importantly: ask someone if there’s anything you can do to help them (they may one day need your help treating a hypo) or if they feel like sharing.

Last word of advice

The worst conversations I’ve ever had myself when discussing my diabetes is having people come to me and ask me whether I should be eating a certain thing, or how I cope with injecting and needles because “they’d never be able to do that”.  The worst conversations about diabetes have come from people who have been all too ready to judge what I do, rather than just listen.  Diabetics are not different from other people, they don’t usually need help from others either to manage their condition, but what we do need is understanding from others and if we are ever ill, having a hypo attack for example, the best thing anyone can do is simply be supportive and listen and help us get sugar if we ask (and not walk off to go shoe shopping as happened to me when I once asked a friend to sit down when I was hypo – 😮 !).

-As a type 1 diabetic diagnosed over 20 years ago and still struggling I hope to raise awareness this month for this condition.  If you’d like to talk then don’t hesitate to contact me or leave a comment.  I will be discussing more diabetes, as well as going in far more depth and sharing personal stories, in future posts on this blog.

Are you diabetic or know someone who is?  Are you aware of this illness or feel you want to be better informed?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂