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Living with Diabetes

How to Explain Diabetes to Someone New

7/12/2021 by mySugr

How to Explain Diabetes to Someone New

Did you know that more than 422 million people across the world have diabetes?¹ But even though there are so many diabuddies out there, many find it hard to talk to their friends and family about diabetes and how it affects their lives. While many people have heard about diabetes, they aren’t necessarily familiar with all the ins and outs.

You should decide when the time is right to talk to others about your diabetes. At the same time, it’s totally ok if you’re not in the mood to talk about your diabetes. We get it. You deal with the diabetes monster 24/7, and we know how challenging this can be. But don’t be afraid to talk about your diabetes, and don’t be ashamed. You are doing an awesome job. Creating an open dialogue can help them understand how they can support you. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions people have about diabetes and how you can answer them.

 

What Type of Diabetes Do You Have?

Many people don’t understand the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes (Plus, there are even more types of diabetes such as LADA or MODY diabetes). Both types of diabetes mean that you have too much sugar in your blood. When explaining the two types of diabetes, it’s helpful to look at the differences.²

 

Type 1

What happens?

Your body attacks cells in the pancreas. The Beta cells, to be nerdy here. This makes them unable to produce insulin, a hormone that helps control levels of blood sugar in the body.

Risk Factors

No one knows what causes type 1 diabetes.

Management

Insulin is taken to manage your blood sugar.

 

Type 2 

What happens?

Your body doesn’t make enough of the hormone insulin, or if it makes insulin, it doesn’t work properly.

Risk Factors

Some things can put you at risk of type 2 diabetes. This includes ethnicity and genetics.

Management

You may manage blood sugar with a combination of diet, exercise, and medication. Sometimes people with type 2 diabetes may also take insulin.

 

How Do You Manage Diabetes?

People may be curious about how you manage your diabetes. Heck, explaining everything that goes into it can be as complicated as explaining the big bang theory! So stick to the basics.  Do you use a blood sugar meter? Tell them about your medicine, therapy, and lifestyle changes that help you manage your blood sugar levels.

 

A blood sugar meter helps you keep track of blood sugar levels. To use a blood sugar meter, you prick your finger, put a blood sample on a test strip, and the meter gives you a blood sugar reading. Some people with diabetes also use CGM systems (continuous glucose monitoring) to track their sugar levels. A sensor under the skin that measures the glucose levels continuously. If you manage blood sugar with diet and exercise or take medicine by mouth, you may only be required to check your blood sugar once a day.

 

If you take insulin as part of your diabetes management, you may have to check your blood sugar frequently throughout the day. And if you take insulin, you must use a needle or insulin pen to get insulin into your body. Fast-acting insulin may be used many times each day when you eat, and long-acting insulin is usually given once a day. Insulin can also be delivered via insulin pumps attached to your body. 

 

What Foods Can You Eat?

The key to eating when you have diabetes is moderation. This counts for both T1 and T2 diabetes. Heck, this is even the case for people who are not living with diabetes. Moderation  means ensuring that each meal has a balance of proteins, fats, vegetables and fruits, and starches.³ Many people think you can’t eat carbs or sugar. This is not true!  Again, it is all about moderation.

 

Some types of carbohydrates, like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, are better for you than others. Yes, you probably need to count carbs, and portion sizes are important.

 

Eating when you have diabetes always requires balance. Eating too little when you are taking diabetes medicine can result in a blood sugar that is too low. Too much food, or too much of certain foods, can make your blood sugar go too high.

 

It’s important to make other people aware of the fact that diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the foods you love! But it does mean you need to follow a healthy diet – something everyone should do anyway. 

 

How Does Diabetes Affect Dating and Sex?

If you’re dating someone new, it’s super helpful to make them aware of your diabetes. The decision about when to do so is completely up to you but in certain scenarios, it can benefit you to have their support. For example, it’s possible for your blood sugar to go too low while you’re on a date. If your date doesn’t know you have diabetes, they might not know what to do to help you.

 

Dating often includes going to places that serve alcohol, but the signs of low blood sugar can be similar to those of being drunk. Alcohol can affect blood sugar, too. Making your date aware that you have diabetes, and the signs of low blood sugar can prepare them to take action if needed.

 

If you plan on getting intimate with someone, it might be helpful to be even more open about diabetes. Intercourse is a type of exercise which can cause your blood sugar levels to drop. If you have type 1 diabetes and wear an insulin pump, you may want to explain that robot part  to a new partner. Same for your CGM sensor.

 

Diabetes can also cause nerve problems that result in vaginal dryness and a loss of sensation in women, or erectile dysfunction in men.⁴ Many treatments are available, but it’s a great idea to be open with your partner.

 

Common Questions to Avoid

Sometimes, people ask questions or make comments about diabetes that make you feel frustrated. When you talk to other people about diabetes, explain to them that the following questions can be triggering for people with diabetes:

  • “Should you eat that?” Other people should understand that you can still enjoy your favorite foods and that you’re already following a plan to control your blood sugar.
  • “This is sugar-free so that you can eat this.” Unfortunately, that’s not always the case! Sometimes those sugar-free products can be surprising sources of hidden carbs. 
  • “But you’re so active and healthy.” It’s possible to have diabetes and still be very active and healthy. Having diabetes doesn’t mean that you make bad health choices.

 

If you’re from the press and stumbled upon this article, this article on how to write about diabetes might also interest you.

 

 

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Sources:

  1. World Health Organization, 2020. Diabetes. [webpage] Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes [Accessed 03/03/2021]
  2. Diabetes.co.uk, 2019. Differences Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. [webpage] Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics/differences-between-type-1-and-type-2-diabetes [Accessed 03/03/2021]
  3. Mayo Clinic, 2020. Diabetes management: How lifestyle, daily routine affect blood sugar. [webpage] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/diabetes-management/art-20047963 [Accessed 03/03/2021]
  4. Patient, 2020. Telling your date about your diabetes. [webpage] Available at:  https://patient.info/news-and-features/telling-your-date-about-your-diabetes [Accessed 03/03/2021]

The mySugr website does not provide medical or legal advice. mySugr blog articles are not scientific articles, but intended for informational purposes only.

Medical or nutritional information on the mySugr website is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult a physician or health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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