9 Dumb Diabetes Questions


“We are all very ignorant. What happens is that not all ignore the same things,” said Albert Einstein. Diabetes is no exception.

Before I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D), I had no idea what beta cells were, how a pancreas worked, or that it could be diagnosed at my age. But after my diagnosis, I found myself forced to investigate diabetes.

When we live close to something like diabetes, it is something that we have to learn about but is not required for the rest of the world to know about (although it should be required because nowadays it is an epidemic).

I don’t know about many other diseases myself and when I hear about one that catches my attention, I try to find out about it and I look for a way to ask about it without hurting anyone’s feelings—I would rather keep quiet if this is the case.

It is one thing to not know and want to educate yourself on the topic but it is another to be reckless and rude! The fact that you are uninformed does not give you the right to be insensitive.

There are issues that should be addressed gently, and in regards to diseases, it should always be done subtly. Those of us who have a health condition can be susceptible, some of us are more annoyed by some things than others, others are more relaxed and are not affected by certain comments.

I do get annoyed, not necessarily with questions because I like to talk about my condition and I feel that making people aware about diabetes benefits us all. What I do not like are questions that are asked without thinking or realizing that can affect those who are asked. Surely many questions are not asked with bad intentions but rather they are the result of a myth.

So if you run into a person with diabetes, look for a more polite way to ask them the following:

1) But you are too young to already have diabetes, when you were a kid did you eat lots of sweets?

Myths about diabetes and unawareness regarding the different types of diabetes generate theories about the causes of the condition. It’s more subtle to ask, “Why do you have diabetes?” instead of speculating about something you do not know about.

2) How can you live with diabetes? I don’t think I could do it!

We do not know what we are capable of until we get to live it. Just imagining the situation does not even come close to reality, and each person responds to situations in their own way, so passing judgment on an unfamiliar situation is not appropriate.

3) You can’t even tell you have diabetes, how do you do it?

This is totally rude. It is not polite to talk about someone’s appearance, much less in front of them, but it is even worse to this when it is about their health condition. We judge based on our imagination and stereotypes, and in this case about diabetes. And no, you cannot tell that someone has diabetes.

4) What can you eat?

Sharing the table with other dinner guests can be uncomfortable when you live with diabetes and these types of questions come up. It is quite common when food is served for it to be accompanied by this question. Any person with diabetes should be able to eat what they decide according to their treatment and their personal diabetes education—we do not need a special menu. It would be more polite to ask us: “What would you like to eat?”

5) If you take insulin, do you have the bad type of diabetes?

People get scared when diabetes comes up, and think there is a good type. All types of diabetes require appropriate treatment and diabetes education. What is bad is when you are not well informed and when you don’t take care of yourself.

6) Does it hurt?

Not everything physical hurts. The pain is personal and subjective.

7) Aren’t you afraid of going blind because of the insulin?

This is an irresponsible question. We should not get involved with the person’s treatment without thinking about the consequences of that recommendation or comment.

Insulin is not the bad guy. High levels of glucose for long periods of time can cause damage to some organs. Insulin is produced by a normal pancreas, and in the case of type 1 diabetes, there is a total lack of this hormone so it must be injected. This is also true for some type 2 cases when oral medication is not enough to lower the blood glucose levels (BG’s).

So, please, do not be irresponsible and do not even think about blaming insulin. There are people who may believe it and may decide to stop their treatment, which is very dangerous.

8) Have you tried the miraculous milkshake?

Oh please! The only one allowed to prescribe something to us is our doctor—you do not want to be responsible for the consequences.

9) Are you going to die from diabetes?

Always try to encourage a person with a health condition instead of discouraging them. For decades, there was this belief that diabetes kills people. When we take advantage of today’s tools, get educated and try to keep our blood glucose in range, life can be anything we want!

So go ahead and ask! But think before you do it.

Read more of Carolina’s stories in Blog Diabético Tipo 1

WRITTEN BY Carolina Zárate, POSTED 11/15/18, UPDATED 08/04/23

On September 16, 2004 Carolina Zárate's life was changed. At 24 she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Being an advertising agent, she was encouraged to create a blog called "Blog Diabético Tipo 1 (db1)" to talk about her experiences and with the help of social networks she has managed to spread a message of positivism when it comes to diabetes. Carolina is from Bogotá, Colombia. She loves cats, she used to have a cat with type 1 diabetes and she likes tattoos, she has several of them. A phrase: "If you can not change the world of diabetes, at least change the world of a person with diabetes."