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FAQs: Living with diabetes


Q: What can I do to help myself cope with diabetes?

Whilst diabetes doesn't have to stop you from living the life you would if you didn't have the condition, most people experience days when they'd rather not have it, when it all seems too much and they'd do anything to be rid of it. It's perfectly natural to feel this way. After all, even if the person you love most and who you really enjoy spending time with was with you 24 hours a day, every day of the year, you'd probably have times when you wish they'd go away!

It's important to remember when you're in the grip of feeling like this that it usually passes. Try to think of anything positive that diabetes has brought to your life, such as taking more care over your health or meeting someone you might not have met if you didn't have diabetes. You might also think about times in the past when you've felt like this and how you coped with it then. What or who got you through it? What do you need to help you this time? Remind yourself that you've been through similar times in the past and you've got through them so you can do so again. You could even prepare in advance for days when you feel like this – perhaps have something written down that you can turn to, such as the positive effects of having diabetes, or just know in advance what you might do, e.g. call a friend.

If you would like to talk through how you are feeling, please do call the Diabetes UK Helpline. The line is staffed by trained counsellors who also have knowledge of diabetes. You will be given as much time as you need and although the service is confidential, you can choose to remain anonymous if you prefer. You can also send us an email or write to us.

Q: Does diabetes influence which jobs I can apply for?

As with everyone, apply for jobs which you are suited to and qualified. People with diabetes used to be discouraged from doing shift work but improvements in blood glucose testing and more flexible insulin regimes means that diabetes is less likely to get in the way. If you feel able to cope with the demands of shift work, working nights and changing the way you manage diabetes, give it a go. Talk to your diabetes care team for advice.

Diabetes UK believes that everyone should be assessed on their own merits and should not be subjected to blanket bans. Following extensive campaigning by Diabetes UK, the blanket bans have been lifted in the emergency services for people with Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes who use insulin.

Recruitment and retention of people with diabetes in the police, fire and ambulance services should now be subject to individual medical assessment. There are, however, still restrictions in place by some NHS Ambulance Trusts on people who wish to be ambulance drivers. These restrictions are currently being challenged. There are also restrictions still in place for jobs involving driving Large Good Vehicles or Passenger Carrying Vehicles.

Q: Where can I get a diabetes ID card or a diabetes medical bracelet?

It is essential for people with diabetes to carry some means of identification and medical information, in case of an emergency. We have details of two companies that provide jewellery, such as bracelets, pendants and watches, engraved with vital medical information. The companies will also engrave on to the jewellery an emergency telephone number, together with a unique personal identification number, so that in an emergency medical professionals will be able to call this telephone number to gain any further medical and personal information that is required (eg your name and address, next of kin, treatment, doctor's details).

The MedicAlert Foundation
MedicAlert House, 327-329 Witan Court, Upper 4th Street, Milton Keynes, MK9 1EH
Tel: 01908 951045

37 Northampton Street, Hockley, Birmingham B18 6DU
Tel: 0121 200 1616

(Please note that Diabetes UK cannot take responsibility for these products or services.)

Q: With diabetes do I get free prescriptions, free eye or dental treatment?

People who treat their diabetes with tablets, injectable therapies or insulin are entitled to free prescriptions – but if you're in England you'll need to have a medical exemption certificate to claim your free prescription unless you're aged 60 or over. For more information go to our free prescriptions page.

Everyone with diabetes is entitled to free NHS sight tests. Having diabetes does not automatically qualify someone for free dental treatment. To find out the rules on different services for different parts of the UK, go to the health costs section on the NHS Business Services Authority website.

Q: Is diabetes hereditary?

It's not diabetes itself which is passed through to children, only the tendency for them to develop the condition, which will only happen if something else triggers it.

If a father has Type 1 diabetes, there's around a 1 in 20 chance that his child will develop diabetes and if a mother has Type 1 diabetes, the chance lessens to around 1 in 50. Type 2 diabetes can run in families.

The best action for children of parents with diabetes to take is to follow as healthy a lifestyle as possible; eat healthily, keep active and avoid becoming overweight.

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