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Diabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels become too high.

Diabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels become too high.
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Living with diabetes

5-minute read

Having diabetes does not change your basic needs, wants and desires. It will make some aspects of life more challenging, but it doesn't define who you are or prevent you from enjoying and participating in life.

It is important to remember, however, that when you are at work, if you are travelling or driving, for example, there are a number of things you need to consider including those discussed below.

Managing diabetes

Learning to manage your diabetes takes time, patience and effort. You may also be coping with difficult emotions after diagnosis, such as anger, confusion or depression.

In order to stay well, it's important to monitor your blood glucose (sugar) level regularly, and to understand how it is affected by food and exercise. You may also need diabetes medication or insulin to inject to help you keep your blood glucose level stable.

It's also important to take other steps to help manage the condition and lower your risk of further health problems. This is because both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes put you at increased risk of physical problems or conditions such as heart disease and stroke, blindness, nerve damage, foot ulcers, kidney damage, muscle-wasting and damage to ligaments and joints.

On the bright side, there's a lot you can do to minimise your risk of these problems:

  • maintain a healthy weight
  • eat a healthy, balanced diet that's low in fat, salt and sugar
  • don't smoke
  • get active for 30 minutes a day, five times a week
  • check your feet every day. The nerve damage that can occur in diabetes most commonly affects feet
  • keep your appointments and regular check-ups with your diabetes care team

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Find out if you're at risk of heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes in just a few minutes using the healthdirect Risk Checker.

Managing my diabetes - video

Sickness

When you're unwell, you need to take extra care. As a person with diabetes when you are sick, your blood glucose levels can rise so you need to monitor them more frequently, for example every 2-4 hours. Continue to take your normal dose of insulin when you are sick. Never stop taking or reduce your insulin dose. 

Sometimes when you are sick you may need more insulin or extra doses of insulin. Contact your doctor or credentialed diabetes educator if your illness lasts for more than one day, or if you vomit more than three times in a day, to discuss whether your insulin needs to be changed.

Make sure you keep a list of contact numbers for your doctor, hospital and ambulance by the phone or in your mobile. If possible, have a friend or relative come and regularly check on you.

Work

People with diabetes successfully perform all types of jobs from heading major corporations to protecting public safety to performing on stage or in a sports arena. A general misunderstanding of diabetes is still common in our community and among some employers.

Concerns of uninformed employers include thinking that people with diabetes will 'black out' all the time, or have frequent sick days. The reality is that, because many individuals with diabetes work with few or no restrictions, their employers don't even know that they have diabetes.

If asked on a job application form or in an interview if you have any relevant health problems you should always disclose your diabetes. The positive aspects to having diabetes including regular health checks and a responsible attitude towards your health. Employers are not allowed to discriminate against you because of your diabetes. If you feel this is happening, contact the Advocacy Officer at your state or territory Diabetes Australia office, or visit Diabetes Australia website for more information.

Driving

If you have diabetes, you can hold a driver's license or learner permit as long as your diabetes is well controlled. The key message for safe driving is “Be above 5 to Drive”.

The main concern for licensing authorities is the possibility of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose while driving). Diabetes complications like eye problems are also of concern as it affects your ability to drive safely.

Although there are uniform national 'Fitness to Drive' guidelines, all states have slightly different regulations and requirements to assess people with diabetes who wish to begin, or continue driving to protect your safety and the safety of other drivers. The guidelines attempt to balance the safety of all concerned and eliminate any unfairness against people with diabetes.

If your vision deteriorates or you are concerned about your diabetes symptoms, you should discuss this with your doctor.

Travel

Wherever you plan to go, diabetes should not prevent you but if you're planning a trip overseas, you will need to think about allowing for different foods, how to cope with changes in time zones, possible vaccinations and extreme climates. You will also need to be well prepared for mishaps such as long delays and misplaced baggage, including insulin and other medications.

There are many things to consider before you leave, such as airline regulations, a well-timed itinerary, inflight needs and being prepared for that 'what-if' situation. Good planning is the key.

For more information about these topics go to Diabetes Australia or call the Diabetes Australia Infoline on: 1300 136 588.

For under 25s - myD

'myD' is a site that has been developed specifically for people aged 16 to 25 years living with diabetes.

The site provides general information on living with diabetes and covers 'everyday' topics like school, work, travel, driving and general health. The site also provides information and links to other sites of interest, and there is a section for people to tell their story and talk about how they live with diabetes, here and now. To find out about the diabetes programs and services available in your area, contact Diabetes Australia.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2018

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