Truth and Dare
The news media sustain many stereotypes about diabetes, especially when they describe people as suffering from the condition. This description could lead many to believe that the devastating consequences of poorly controlled diabetes are inevitable when, in fact, they are not. Poor control is the key distinction that causes much of the suffering of diabetes.
There is no question that poorly controlled diabetes can lead to outcomes such as painful nerve damage, vision loss, kidney disease, heart attack, and stroke. This is where the real suffering occurs. Many patients with controlled diabetes encounter fewer such complications and often with less severity. Personal effort and a commitment to taking care of diabetes over the years really do make a positive difference.
And what about those painful injections that get so much emphasis in the popular press? This description harkens back to the days long before the availability of disposable, small-gauge, and finely manufactured needles. Needle technology continues to evolve, and the past 30 years have produced ever more comfortable options for people with diabetes. The safety and accuracy of injection devices, especially insulin pens, make the process of injecting insulin—although far from perfect—far more tolerable than in the distant past.
The diabetes community could do much to push back on these stereotypes as a way to encourage each member of our community to manage his or her diabetes and enjoy a long and full life.
Diabetes has been described elsewhere as a “thief in the night” that robs people of quality of life, bit by bit, over time. With uncontrolled diabetes, the process is insidious and—tragically—symptomless in many cases. That’s why this magazine mentions regular health care visits for examinations and important lab tests that detect any developing complications early, before they become irreversible. That’s why you’ll hear about regularly using your meter to check blood glucose levels. All of this gives you and your health team important feedback about the effects of food, exercise, and stress on blood glucose, and it often highlights the need to adjust, change, or stop medications to achieve diabetes control.
I challenge you to prove the stereotypes about diabetes to be untrue. Dare to be curious about your health. Recognize that your diabetes is different from everyone else’s, and that what works for someone else may not work for you. But above all else, get involved in your own care, ask questions of your providers, and be persistent when your questions aren’t acknowledged. What can you do differently today (and tomorrow and the day after) to better manage your diabetes? Do you have a plan, or will you just “let things happen”?
Will you be in control of diabetes, or will it control you? Your active participation in your care—in disproving the stereotypes—can make all the difference.