Hearing You Have Diabetes
Our Health Writer, Colleen Shannon, finds out how a diagnosis affects you and who can help.
EVERY day some 400 people in the UK are told that they have diabetes. It is a moment that changes your whole life.
Suddenly, you have to learn all about managing a complex condition. It means watching what you eat, checking your blood sugar, and possibly taking daily medication.
Nine in ten sufferers have type 2 diabetes, which usually appears in middle and older age. It can come as a shock, especially if you’re feeling fine.
Fortunately, no-one has to face a diagnosis alone. This is what I heard from Emma Elvin, Senior Clinical Advisor at Diabetes UK.
She told me that people respond to the news in different ways, but being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can feel devastating.
Sometimes there is the uncertainty of when to start treatment; everyone needs to make lifestyle changes and you might fear the long-term effects on your health. It can be pretty overwhelming, not only for you but also for your family and close friends.
Some people might feel isolated or embarrassed about their diagnosis. So it is important to seek emotional support from your GP, dietician, nurse and consultant physician, who can build your confidence.
Despite common perceptions, type 2 diabetes is never “mild”. It is a serious condition that can lead to long-term health problems if not managed. The good news is, taking some practical steps can go a long way towards controlling diabetes.
Following a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and keeping a healthy weight will help you achieve healthy levels of cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure, lowering the risk of long-term complications such as damage to the eyes, heart, kidneys and nerves.
Some people manage their type 2 diabetes with tablets, injectable medication or insulin.
Learning about diabetes is essential. Make sure you know the level of care and the annual health checks you should receive from the NHS. Search “15 Healthcare Essentials” on the Diabetes UK website at www.diabetes.org.uk.
At the time you are diagnosed, you should be offered a group education course. Diabetes UK also offers an online Learning Zone which is available through the website.
By providing details about your diabetes, you can use the Learning Zone to get tailored information about managing your condition.
For help with questions, you can contact the charity’s helpline on 0345 123 2399, to speak with their trained counsellors.
If you are just getting used to your new diagnosis – or even if you are a veteran at diabetes management but feel a bit low or unsure about something – please don’t hesitate to take advantage of all the free and confidential help that is on offer. ■