Updated 06 March 2017

8 things you should never say to someone with type 1 diabetes

There are many misconceptions about diabetes, which means people with type 1 diabetes are often asked a lot of insensitive questions. Here are eight things you should never ask or say.

When people find out that you have type 1 diabetes, they tend to ask a lot of questions. Generally, this is a good thing as it creates greater awareness.

Unfortunately, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are still poorly understood by the average person, meaning that people with diabetes tend to get asked a lot of inappropriate and insensitive questions.

As someone with type 1 diabetes, Health24’s Laura Newnham is no stranger to these kinds of comments and questions.

Here are the eight things she is most tired of hearing:

1. “Did you get diabetes from eating too much sugar?”

This kind of blame-game statement may not only make someone with type 1 feel like having the condition is somehow their own fault, it is also untrue.

Type 1 diabetes is not caused by poor eating habits, it is actually an autoimmune condition. This means that the body’s own immune system turns on itself and attacks the pancreas, destroying the cells that produce insulin. This eventually leads to type 1 diabetes. It is not preventable and currently cannot be cured.

Read: Treating type 1 diabetes

2. “How can you have diabetes, you aren’t fat?”

Unlike type 2 diabetes, developing type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with being overweight. Prior to being diagnosed, one of the main symptoms of type 1 diabetes is unexplained weight loss, and this may actually prompt them to seek medical attention.

3. “My mom’s aunt had diabetes and she had to have her leg amputated.”

This is something that no one with diabetes wants to hear. Yes, the reality is that diabetes is one of the leading causes of amputations globally but for someone with diabetes, the fear of amputation and other complications is with them constantly – you don’t need to remind them about it.

4. “I don’t know how you inject yourself; I would never be able to.”

If you had the choice between injecting yourself to survive or dying, you would soon realise the former isn’t as bad as it seems.

Read: Insulin pumps helps kids control blood sugar

5. “You shouldn’t be eating that!”

An adult with diabetes can decide what to eat for him- or herself. It is their life, their body and their condition to manage. For people with type 1 diabetes, having the occasional treat is absolutely fine as long as they understand how to adjust their insulin dosages accordingly – don’t make them feel guilty about it.

6. “Don’t test your blood sugar in public, it's gross!”

No it is not – it is responsible healthcare. Discouraging someone with diabetes from testing their blood sugar just because they are in a public place is not only unfair and discriminatory, it is also dangerous. Hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar is an emergency situation and can result in coma or death if not treated urgently.

7. “You can’t have children if you have diabetes, right?”

Wrong. Women with type 1 diabetes can safely have children. Yes, their pregnancies will be high-risk but with the proper planning and management, a healthy pregnancy is achievable.

8. “Aren’t you worried that you’re going to die?”

A person with diabetes sub-consciously deals with death on a constant basis. Their lives are centred on meticulously controlling their blood sugar to prevent death. They don’t need to be reminded that they have a condition that could kill them.

Read more:

Can divorce and other childhood trauma cause type 1 diabetes?

New type 1 diabetes treatment involves immune system

Parents of kids with diabetes need to plan for school


Ask the Expert

Diabetes expert

Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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