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Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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Complications

High blood sugar levels can seriously damage parts of your body. Here we share stories from people who have experienced diabetes complications, or who are trying to prevent them.

Mike smiling into the camera on holiday

MikeDiagnosed with type 1 in 1976

Complications

I spent about 35 to nearly 40 years in the IT industry, driving up and down the country, and that’s when things started to get worse and worse. I was pursuing my career, rather than looking after my health.

This led to problems with my feet, and what started out as a small blister turned into an infection and then Charcot foot. I’ve also had problems with my eyes too, and have been through 11 lots of laser to try and treat my retinopathy over eight to ten years.

I’ve got a fantastic podiatry team now, in a hospital about two miles down the road which is brilliant for me. I don’t do too much walking now because I can’t put much pressure on my feet.

As well as Charcot foot, I’ve got advanced neuropathy in both feet, so I can’t feel a thing in either of them. And that means I need to be careful about how far I walk - I only really go from my home to the car now.

When I want to go further, I use an electric wheelchair; that helps to reduce the pressure of my feet. My podiatrist said recently that my feet have never looked better! 

Read Mike's complete story
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Abdul RaisAbdul Rais was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1999 at the age of 46

Being careful

When I was diagnosed, I’d probably had diabetes for a few years. In the early days, they found some diabetes damage at the back of my eye so I had some laser surgery to stop the bleeding.

I also had some nerve damage in my feet – and the sensitivity level had dropped. If I touch my feet on the lower half of my legs now, it’s as if I’ve got socks on.

But nothing has got worse. I get my annual checks. And I try to look after myself – no one else is going to. I’ve always been quite independent minded.  

Lifestyle changes

I made small changes to my lifestyle quite a few years ago now. I started walking regularly. And now I’ll just have a piece of chocolate instead of sitting with a box of chocolates in the evening. I do have a very sweet tooth. But I do have to battle against sweets and cakes, although I’m not a big eater. I don’t eat that much Asian food but I love Chinese food which also has a lot of carbs.

When I was first diagnosed and put on insulin, that ended my career in IT since I had started experiencing hypos quite often which meant that I could no longer drive long distances without having the constant fear of hypos. A change of career was necessary if I were to continue to work in order to pay the bills.

My new career was translation and interpreting. Translations jobs would arrive via email and I would translate the documents from home and return them via email. Interpreting jobs were local too so I would only have to travel 25-30 miles from home to law courts, police stations and hospitals.

Read Abdul Rais's complete story

Sarita Sarita Gandhi was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1994

Dealing with neuropathy and retinopathy

Over the years, I’ve found that I’ve started to lose some feeling in both my feet. My doctor said that some of the blood vessels are damaged because of neuropathy, so I make sure to keep checking them.

Around 10 years ago I was also told that I had developed retinopathy in both of my eyes. I started going to appointments every year so they could monitor my eyesight, but this changed to every six months when they noticed some more changes to my vision.

My last appointment was in October and I’m glad it still went ahead. I wasn’t sure if the coronavirus pandemic was going to affect it, but luckily it didn’t.

Read Sarita 's complete story
David smiling at the camera in front of some deer in a park

DavidDiagnosed with type 1 in 1971

Being more active and managing hypos

I always test my blood sugar before I go for a walk and always take plenty of hypo treatments with me. I would never go anywhere or do anything energetic without taking those precautions anyway.

Hypos are constantly on your mind, but that’s part and parcel of having diabetes.  I think that might be one of the reasons people with diabetes suffer from anxiety and depression. There are so many things that you have to check and worry about.

I think that if you do a similar walk every day at the same time, you’re unlikely to have a hypo completely out of the blue unless you exert yourself too much or your blood sugar is too low when you set out.

There are lots of variables when it comes to managing your blood sugar, but if you do some activity every day, you can make it work with your diabetes in the same way that having the same food every day does. You shouldn’t get any major surprises. And as long as you are prepared for any potential hypos, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Struggling to move more?

Call our helpline for one-to-one support. Our trained specialists will help you build your confidence and find new ways to get moving. Get in touch by calling 0345 123 2399 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm, or emailing helpline@diabetes.org.uk.

Read David's complete story
Amanda stands in a garden smiling

Amanda SkingleDiagnosed with type 1 in 2001

My health got worse and I developed complications

At 28, I was working as a holiday rep in Spain where I noticed my eyesight was getting worse. I was struggling to read the fine print of booking forms.

When I came home from Spain, I had my eyes tested. I was told that as a result of my diabetes I’d developed cataracts in both eyes and retinopathy. Three days before I was supposed to leave for a placement in Venice, I was told I had to stay and have surgery to save my eyesight.

I was angry at diabetes and at that point I was starting to feel it was maybe my fault – I told myself if I’d looked after myself a bit more, I wouldn’t be in this situation.

I had to give up my job and I had two operations on my eyes. Around the same time, I also found out I had Charcot foot – a complication of diabetes where nerve damage means that when you put pressure on your foot, the bone and joints can start to change shape over time. I had to use a wheelchair for eight months.

Once my eyes were better, I started doing art lessons and when I was told I could start walking again, I got a job in a travel agent and met my other half.

Six weeks later, a routine blood test at the diabetes clinic showed that I had 21 per cent kidney function. It stunned me. At that point I wasn’t showing symptoms. It was later that I started to feel tired and sick.

In January 2017 I was put on dialysis. I felt awful at that point, although I was still working full time. That was hard. I was trying to be all happy, selling holidays, but I felt so rubbish.

I was on dialysis for 14 months. At that point I blamed myself. But a counsellor at the kidney clinic said that at the age I was diagnosed, you don’t necessarily have the mindset to be able to deal with type 1 diabetes. Yet you’re treated as an adult patient. She said it wasn’t my fault, that there are special clinics now for teenagers like me who struggle with a type 1 diagnosis.

Read Amanda Skingle's complete story
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