Saturday, 19 May 2012

D-Blog Week: Diabetes Q&A


I don't blame people for asking me seemingly silly questions about diabetes.  They're usually just a product of misunderstanding, although I've recently started to hold the media accountable for many people's confusion about what it really is.  In their ignorance, a distinction between the different types of diabetes is rarely made and so people are often left to make broad generalisations.  Seeing as the news and other forms of media seem to be incapable of fulfilling their purpose (truthfully informing), many diabetics are left to take the situation into their own hands.

In this post I aim to set the record straight about diabetes by answering questions I've been regularly asked about diabetes.

Q:  Have you got the good type or the bad type?
A:  As far as I'm concerned, a 'good type' of diabetes doesn't exist.  Types 1 and 2 are chronic illnesses.  Both are life-changing and require constant care.  If by what you mean 'the good type' is 'is it curable?', I have the bad type because mine isn't.  If what you mean by 'the bad type' is 'did your lifestyle cause your diabetes?' (also a serious generalisation by the way!) I have the good type because I didn't do it to myself.  Both types of diabetes are diseases.  Is a disease ever a good thing?  No.

Q:  You're never allowed to eat sweets, are you?
A:  I'm not allergic to sugar, I'm diabetic.  I can eat sweets or a cake or chocolate if I want to, I just have to inject insulin to cover it!  No, I shouldn't consume the entire contents of the confectionery aisle at the supermarket all in one sitting, but neither should a non-diabetic.  Everything's alright in moderation.

Q:  How are you a diabetic when you're not fat?
A:  Sometimes type 2 diabetes can develop because of an unhealthy lifestyle and sometimes obesity, but not always.  Not only that, but I'm a type 1 anyway!  Type 1 diabetes is not caused by the lifestyle a person lived prior to diagnosis.
[A similar assumption people make is that type 1 diabetes is caused by eating too many sweets when a person is younger.  Myth buster says: FALSE!]

Q:  Type 1 diabetes is the one you're born with, isn't it?
A:  Annoyingly, the cause of type 1 diabetes is not yet certain.  There are a few schools of thought surrounding what causes diabetes (genetic?  triggered by something environmental?)  but no one is yet 100% sure of what forces our pancreas to take a permanent vacation.  I was diagnosed at 3, my uncle at 14 and my second cousin at 26 years old.  As you can see, we're not born with it.

Q:  Your diabetes will make you blind, won't it?
A:  If I don't take care of it and have awful management, yes.  There's a very strong risk of complications if you refuse to control your blood sugars to the best of your ability (or if your HbA1c is above 7%)  However because I try my hardest most of the time to prioritise my health, hopefully I won't get any diabetes related complications and hopefully I won't go blind!

Sorry for how blunt this post is, but I don't usually write really informative posts and I thought there were a few things people should know.  So next time you see a diabetic injecting their insulin and then eating a muffin, please don't assume it's going to kill them.  They're not doing anything wrong :)

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