For World Diabetes Day this year, Diabetes UK are asking everyone to help them #RewriteTheStory.
With that in mind, we took some time to reflect on some of our own research, when we asked people living with diabetes what they think is important to know when you’re diagnosed, and how they want to be supported.
Because beyond the facts and figures, diabetes profoundly affects the day-to-day life of those who have it, and being diagnosed can feel scary, uncertain and isolating.
All about injecting
For many people, when they’re first diagnosed with diabetes they must start injecting themselves with insulin daily. And many of them will never have even touched a needle before. So while they will get advice from their doctor, and there’s plenty out there online, it can still bring about a lot of anxiety and uncertainty.
Injecting daily can be time-consuming, demanding and sometimes painful. Research shows that in addition to diet, insulin and physical exercise, an optimal injection technique is essential for better diabetes management.
The three golden rules:
- Use the shortest needle you can
- Always rotate your injection sites – and always one finger width away from your last injection site
- Always use a new needle – needle reuse can cause pain, discomfort and lead to complications like lipohypertrophy.
Turning to technology
If you’ve only just been diagnosed, or you’re supporting someone who has, you might not be aware of technological developments that are available to support people living with diabetes.
A flash glucose monitor is designed to prevent people with diabetes from having to prick their finger to monitor their glucose. You have probably seen people wearing one already –¬ they’re small white circular pieces of plastic worn on the upper arm which automatically take readings of the wearer’s blood sugar level.
The sensor glucose readings come from the interstitial fluid (ISF), a thin layer of fluid that surrounds the cells of the tissues below your skin. The only flash glucose monitor being offered now through the NHS is the Freestyle Libre. The newest model has alarms for predicted high or low blood sugar levels.
The Freestyle Libre sensor needs to be scanned to show your blood sugar level. You can either use the smartphone app to do this or a CGM transmitter and reader.
Freestyle Libre and CGMs are prescribed on the NHS when appropriate, or you can buy them yourselves. But we’d always advise you to follow the advice of your healthcare professional when trying out new technology for your diabetes.
Finding the right words
Life with diabetes can be really hard sometimes, physically, mentally and emotionally. So the last thing people with diabetes want to deal with is stigma from others or language that makes them feel isolated or inferior.
Our research found that choosing the right words can have a big impact. Language can perpetuate harmful and pervasive stereotypes about diabetes, painting the disease as a moral issue and placing blame on patients. A recent study showed that negative language can lead to stress, shame, and negative health outcomes.
Conversely, encouraging, and collaborative messages can enhance health outcomes. That’s why, when you’re talking to someone with diabetes, you should try to use non-judgmental language. We put together some quick language swaps to make this easier.
John is diabetic
Suffers with diabetes
John has diabetes
Lives with diabetes
Person with diabetes
You’re not alone
If you’ve just been diagnosed, and you’re feeling a little lost, there’s a whole community of people who’ve been exactly where you are and can offer insight and advice.
Here are some of our favourites:
Mel Stephenson-Gray @lifesportdiabetes
Kamil Armacki @Nerdabetic
David Stephens @MrDaibetes
Ken Tait @bromleydiabetic
Jenny Finney @wonderingbouttypeone
Lulia Stefan @diabetesis
Partha Kar @parthaskar
Dr Amar Puttanna @AmarPut
Diabetic Dad @DiabeticDadUK
Don’t forget, Diabetes UK has tons of information and a free and confidential helpline that offers specialist advice on all aspects of living with diabetes. You can call for answers, support or just to talk to someone who knows about diabetes.
We’d love to hear how you think we can help Diabetes UK #RewriteTheStory – how can we best support people living with diabetes? Reach out and let us know!