Diabetes - a Personal Perspective Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Diabetes - a Personal Perspective

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The Concise Oxford English Dictionary has this to say about diabetes:

  • Diabetes insipidus: n. disorder of pituitary with excessive thirst and urination
  • Diabetes (mellitus): n. disease in which sugar and starch are not properly absorbed with thirst, emaciation and excessive urine containing glucose

I am disabled, because I am diabetic. At least, this is the popular belief.

I have to take Insulin, because I don't produce enough myself, which means the levels of sugars in my blood are not controlled well enough. There's an opinion among non-diabetics that if I even touch anything with sugar in, I will instantly drop down in an agonising death, but this isn't exactly the truth.

Diabetics can eat sugar, but they need to be cautious and limit the amount. It's like anyone else: diabetics need a 'healthy diet', which in this context means a low fat, low sugar, low salt, high fibre, high protein diet. Basically, it means anything in moderation.

'He's drunk or mad!' is the reaction when a diabetic has a 'funny turn'. Actually, he's having a hypoglycaemic attack, his blood has too little sugar in it, and sugar is the fuel for all the organs and activities of the body; without it, nothing can work and you will die. Basically, what has happened is either that he has had too much Insulin, or not enough to eat. This has dropped his blood sugars to a level unable to fuel his bodily functions, so he will be very confused, irritable, and will appear drunk.

He will soon slip into a coma and, not long after, he will die unless action is taken quickly. The right course of action is to get sugar into him if he is still conscious; anything sugary will do, and sweet drinks (not diet drinks) act quickly. He may carry glucose sweets or chocolate with him, so check; if he is unconscious or does not recover within five minutes, then immediate medical help is required.

Of course one of the most common things people say on learning you're a diabetic on insulin is 'I would die if I had to inject myself'. To diabetics this is silly: diabetics needs Insulin, and not injecting it would soon mean certain death. You do get used to the injection, the slight pain, the inconvenience, and even the embarrassment. Did you know 28% of young diabetics who inject Insulin when out and about get questioned by police or even arrested? It certainly pays to carry identification as a diabetic.

Long term effects from diabetes are scary: there's blindness, problems with your feet, losing sensation, obesity, kidney failure, heart disease, and that's just the common ones. Many people die from the complications of diabetes, usually when untreated, because of ignorance or fear.

Am I disabled? I suppose I am, not by diabetes, but by the ignorance and fear of the people I meet in everyday life. Hopefully this Guide Entry will help improve awareness.

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