More than one in every 10 Americans today are dealing with diabetes. It is a chronic condition that changes the lifestyle of the person diagnosed with it, while being mostly undetectable to the person walking past them on the street. New diabetes cases in adults age 20 and older have decreased in the last decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but new diagnosed cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes have significantly increased among youth in the United States. If you do not have diabetes, it’s hard to understand what an individual with this chronic condition may experience. Empathy and understanding for the people and loved ones around you who do grapple with the disease can have a significant impact. Here are some things they may want you to know.
1. Diabetes Management is a Lot of Work
It is a daily struggle for diabetics to manage their blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels. Diabetics are constantly counting carbohydrates, managing portions and making sure they’ve consumed enough calories prior to taking medication, so they can take it safely – often taking the wrong amount of medicine is just as risky as the disease itself. Dietary management is often always on the front of the minds of diabetics, but it’s not the only thing they are thinking about. There are exercise plans to consider, frequent doctor’s visits, the dangers that a common cold could pose to blood sugar levels, careful alcohol management and stress management. Everyday life with diabetes is an hourly balancing act every day.
2. Sugar is Not Forbidden
While ingesting too much sugar can elevate blood sugar levels and trigger a serious reaction in diabetics, eliminating all sugar from a diabetic’s diet is not a one-size-fits-all rule. Once again, managing diabetes is a balancing act. Since blood sugar levels can vary based on complex carbs (starches) and simple carbs (sugar), diabetics can have the occasional donut in the morning or slice of pie after dinner. They may just have to cut out a serving of white rice or pasta to level it out.
3. Foot Pain in Diabetics Also Requires a lot of Management
The CDC notes that about half of all people with diabetes live with nerve damage. Nerves in the feet are most often affected, and can cause numbness, tingling and pain for diabetics, especially those with type 2 diabetes. While some others with the condition may feel no pain at all, diabetics are advised by doctors to prevent nerve damage and to adhere to the following tips:
- Check feet every day
- Wash and dry feet daily
- Never go barefoot
- Be cautious while exercising
- Take care of toenails
- Wear shoes that fit well
- Keep blood flowing
- Get feet checked at every health care visit
- Choose feet-friendly activities like walking, riding a bike or swimming
The diabetic’s propensity to develop foot problems shows that living with diabetes is not an invisible fight. Try to be mindful of this exterior, physical effect of the disease.
4. Everyday Symptoms Can Be Subtle or Unseen
Common issues and symptoms you may notice among diabetics are the aforementioned foot problems, sudden weight loss (among type 1 diabetics), frequent urination and slow-healing wounds. Other issues aren’t always seen with the naked eye. People with diabetes tend to deal with strong thirst or hunger, blurry vision, fatigue and the stress associated with constantly managing blood sugar levels. When it comes to those blood sugar levels and the correlating feeling of fatigue, one thing you can do to help a friend with diabetes is monitor their low blood sugar levels along with them. If they seem uncharacteristically irritable or appear weak or tired, ask if they would like some help. You could possibly bring them a juice or soda as a fast-acting treatment method to elevate their blood sugar if it is extremely low.
5. You can be a Support System
It could go a long way in the eyes of a friend with diabetes if you take some time to educate yourself based on their experience. You can ask them what they need to feel better, and how they feel when their blood sugar rises or drops. Some individuals with diabetes have attested to how helpful and therapeutic chatting can be, as simple as it may sound. Visit the CDC website to learn more about new diabetes statistics, symptoms, complications and tips on managing the disease. Photo credit: Getty Images November is National Diabetes Month: The Easiest Ways to Stay On Top of Your Diabetes Are Sugary Drinks Associated with Colon Cancer? What Does ‘Patient-Centered’ Care Mean?