Frequently asked questions

Living with diabetes can affect many day to day aspects of your life and leave you with many questions. In this section we aim to answer as many of those questions as we can.

If you can not find an answer to your query please contact or helpline on 1850 909 909 or email [email protected] Our helpline is open Monday – Friday from 9am – 5pm and our helpful staff are always happy to hear from you. 

  • Driving and diabetes +

    Having diabetes is not an issue for driving but if you are taking medications that leave you at risk of hypoglycaemia you must take extra precautions and you must inform the National Driver Licence Service. 
    CHECK WITH YOUR PHARMACIST IF YOUR MEDICATIONS LEAVE YOU AT RISK OF HYPOGLYCEAMIA e.g. Insulin or Sulphonylureas such as Gliclazide (Diamicron®) or generic versions such as Diabrezide, Diaglyc, Diacronal MR, Diaclide MR, Gliclazide, Zycron MR.or the post prandial regular Nateglinide (Starlix®).

    If you are not at risk of hypoglycaemia you do not need to inform the National Driver Licence Service. But do declare diet controlled diabetes as a pre-existing health condition where indicated on application/renewal form and remember you must tell them if you start any of the medications that increase the risk of hypoglyceamia. 

    Drivers at risk of hypoglycaemia are advised to take the following precautions:
    • You must always carry your glucose meter and blood glucose strips with you. You must check your blood glucose before the first journey and every two hours whilst you are driving. 
    • In each case if your blood glucose is 5.0mmol/l or less, take a snack. If it is less than 4.0mmol/l or you feel hypoglycaemic, do not drive and take appropriate action to correct glucose level. 
    • If hypoglycaemia develops while driving, stop the vehicle as soon as possible. 
    • You must switch off the engine, remove the keys from the ignition and move from the driver’s seat. 
    • You must not start driving until 45 minutes after blood glucose has returned to normal. It takes up to 45 minutes for the brain to recover fully. 
    • Always keep an emergency supply of fast-acting carbohydrate such as glucose tablets, lucozade or sweets within easy reach in the vehicle. 
    • You should carry personal identification to show that you have diabetes in case of injury in a road traffic accident. 
    • Particular care should be taken during changes of insulin regimens, changes of lifestyle, exercise, travel and pregnancy. 
    • You must take regular meals, snacks and rest periods on long journeys. Always avoid alcohol. 

    Hypoglycaemia
    Hypoglycaemia (also known as a hypo) is the medical term for a low blood glucose (sugar) level. Severe hypoglycaemia means that the assistance of another person is required. The risk of hypoglycaemia is the main danger to safe driving and this risk increases the longer you are on medications that increase your risk of hypoglycaemia (see list above). This may endanger your own life as well as that of other road users. Accidents caused by hypoglycaemia are because drivers carry on driving even though they get warning symptoms of hypoglycaemia occurring. If you get warning symptoms of hypoglycaemia whilst driving, you must always stop as soon as safely possible – do not ignore the warning symptoms.

    Early Symptoms of Hypoglycaemia include:
    • Sweating, shakiness or trembling, feeling hungry, fast pulse or palpitations, anxiety, tingling lips. If you do not treat this it may result in more severe symptoms such as: 
    • Slurred speech, difficulty concentrating, confusion, disorderly or irrational behaviour, which may be mistaken for drunkenness. If left untreated this may lead to loss of consciousness.
    You must also inform National Driver Licence Service when renewing your licence:
    • If you have suffered more than one episode of severe hypoglycaemia within the last 12 months. You must also tell us if you or your medical team feel you are at high risk of developing severe hypoglycaemia. 
    • You have developed an impaired awareness of hypoglycaemia (difficulty in recognising the warning symptoms of low blood sugar). 
    • You suffer severe hypoglycaemia while driving. 
    • You don’t meet the vision standards set out in these Guidelines (See Chapter 7 ofSláinte agus Tiomáint; Medical Fitness to Drive Guidelines for eyesight standards).
    • You develop any problems with the circulation or sensation in your legs or feet which make it necessary for you to drive certain types of vehicles only, for example automatic vehicles or vehicles with a hand-operated accelerator or brake. This must be shown on your driving licence. 
    • An existing medical condition gets worse or you develop any other condition that may affect your driving safely. 
    • If your doctor, specialist or optician tells you to report your condition to the National Driver Licence Service.
    For people seeking a HGV licence (Group 2 drivers for bus/lorry) all of the above apply but in addition any episode of severe hypoglycaemia must be reported immediately. 

    In the interests of road safety, you must be sure that you can safely control a vehicle at all times.

    Renewing your licence for a Class 1 licence – cars and motor cycles
    Each time a person with diabetes at risk of hypoglycaemia wishes to renew their driving licence, they must present a completed medical form (completed within the previous month) stating their fitness to drive. The duration of the medical certification of fitness to drive will determine the duration of licence you can apply for i.e. generally the licence will only be issued for three years duration but if your doctor certifies you fit to drive for longer i.e. more than three years, apply for the longer time. Diabetes Ireland acknowledges that the shorter duration imposes additional costs and is seeking the implementation of alternative practices. 

    Renewing your licence for a Class 2 licence – Trucks, buses and trailer vehicles

    Only an issue if you are at risk of hypoglycaemia, which requires you to present a completed medical form (completed within the previous month) stating your fitness to drive. The duration of the license is one year and is dependent on having appropriate understanding and awareness of hypoglyceamia, no episodes of “severe” hypoglyceamia, and you must demonstrate regular monitoring (at least twice daily and regularly at times relevant to driving) using a meter with memory capacity. For your medical review, you must have three month’s blood glucose readings. Qualifying Conditions which also must be met include:
    • No episode of hypoglycaemia requiring the assistance of another person has occurred in the preceding 12 months.
    • Must have appropriate awareness of hypoglycaemia at appropriate glucose level. 
    • Must demonstrate an understanding of the risks of hypoglycaemia. 
    • Will not be able to apply until your condition has been stable for a period of at least one month. 
    • Must regularly monitor your condition by checking blood glucose levels at least twice daily and at times relevant to driving. A glucose meter with a memory function to measure and record blood glucose levels must be used. 
    • At the annual examination by a consultant endocrinologist, 3 months of blood glucose readings must be available.
    • Must have no other condition which would render you a danger when driving Group 2 vehicles. 
    • You will be required to comply with the directions of doctors(s) treating your diabetes and to report immediately to the NDLS any significant change in your condition.

    Medical Report

    Guidelines from the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) state that a driving licence application must be accompanied by a medical report form filled out by your doctor. You can download a medical report here

    Eyesight

    See Chapter 7 of guidelines “Sláinte agus Tiomáint; Medical Fitness to Drive Guidelines”for eyesight standards

    Limb Problems

    Limb problems/amputations are unlikely to prevent driving. They may be overcome by driving certain types of vehicles e.g. automatics or one with hand controls. 
    Please note: The above is taken from Driving Guidelines for people with Diabetes – source: Medical guidelines “Sláinte agus Tiomáint; Medical Fitness to Drive Guidelines (PDF)”. Read Full report here.

  • Insurance and diabetes+

    Availability and Shortfalls
    The insurance market shows a friendlier face today to people with diabetes than it did a few years ago. Some major breakthroughs have been achieved, but in terms of the goals of the Diabetes Ireland, it is still a work in progress.
    Below we summarise the more usual areas where a person with diabetes interfaces with the world of insurance. Diabetes Ireland is continuing its mission to further improve matters through ongoing negotiations with Government and the insurance market.
    So what is it like for someone with diabetes looking for common forms of insurance?
    Motor insurance
    This is the area where the greatest progress has been made. A person with diabetes seeking to insure their car can now do so knowing that all members of the Insurance Federation have agreed that they will not load their premiums for diabetes.
    For decades, many people with diabetes withheld details of their condition from their insurer knowing that they would either be refused cover or loaded. We are now in a more enlightened time and everyone should disclose details to their insurer. This also holds true for the Licensing Authority. Confirmation from their GP that they are fit to drive will keep everyone happy.
    House insurance
    No problem, no discrimination exists.
    Travel insurance
    Regrettably, this is an area that is still fraught with danger for the unwary traveller. Most travel insurance policies purchased these days, whether direct from low cost airlines, travel agents, insurance brokers or direct from an insurance company, will have a general exclusion in respect of claims arising out of a pre-existing condition.
    This means that someone with diabetes who finds themselves suffering from complications while abroad would have to pay their own hospital bills, unless they had disclosed their condition in advance to their insurer and received confirmation in writing that they would be covered.
    Even if they were hospitalised for another reason, say a car accident, and their treatment was complicated by their diabetes they would be refused cover. The good news is that cover is available so don’t get caught out.
    Life insurance
    There is no avoiding that the insurance market will always load for diabetes whether it is type 1 or type 2. Loadings vary between insurers based on their assessment of the individual’s health and management of their diabetes.
    In some cases insurers refuse to quote if they feel the mortality risk is too high. Still at other times they postpone a decision until some future date, perhaps six months or 12 months, to see if certain improvements can be achieved.
    Such decisions can be particularly traumatic for someone buying a house.
    Mortgage lenders will usually insist on life cover being in place before allowing the funds to be drawn down to complete a purchase. If cover is not available the purchaser may be unable to proceed and forfeit their deposit if contracts have been exchanged with the builder.
    Anyone over 18 can enter into a life insurance contract. The motto should be that the sooner you arrange life cover the better.
    Income protection
    No progress here. It is not available on an individual basis but may be available on a company group basis.
    Investment products, pensions and PRSAs
    These are not affected by diabetes.

    For details about insurance schemes contact the ERM Financial Services 01-8454361

    Diabetes Ireland Private Motor Car Insurance Scheme
    Diabetes Ireland, in partnership with Zurich and ERM Financial Services, has launched a Private Motor Car Insurance Scheme offering competitive preferential motor insurance rates to people with diabetes and their families. 
    The scheme which is open to Diabetes Ireland members and their families will:
    enable you to switch insurers more easily
    eliminate the hassle and cost of obtaining a medical report from your GP or Consultant.
    provide an instant quote so you can compare it against your current premium
    give you access to many other benefits offered by Diabetes Ireland

    To get a quote and compare costs, simply call Zurich Insurance on Locall 1890 161 162
    The scheme will mostly favour members who are over 30 years of age and will factor in all the normal benefits you would expect from your motor insurance policy.
    If you are not a member now, don’t worry, ring Zurich for your quote, compare the cost, and if you feel it’s worth it, ring Diabetes Ireland on 1850 909 909 to become a member or click here.
    This scheme, in conjunction with Zurich and ERM, is based on the premise that Diabetes Ireland members have a respect for their personal health and wellbeing and thus manage their condition effectively placing them in a lower risk category than the general population. As a result, our members will be offered preferential competitive rates.

  • Sex and diabetes+

    Enjoying sexuality is an important part of life for most healthy adults. But, occasionally, all people can experience problems related to sexuality. These problems may have nothing to do with diabetes but diabetes itself may cause some specific sexual problems.
    Myths about sex and diabetes
    There are many myths about sexual problems caused by diabetes. It is important that you put these aside. Diabetes does not affect everyone the same way. Nor do all people perceive and solve problems the same way. If you have questions about the effect of diabetes on sexuality, or if you are experiencing a problem, talk to the members of your diabetes care team.
    Keep blood sugar under control
    Keeping your blood sugar under good control is important in order to function sexually. In the short term, avoiding hypo- and hyperglycaemia can indirectly affect your sexual pleasure. In the long term, good control of blood sugar can help prevent certain complications from diabetes, which may interfere with sexual function.
    Sexual dysfunction
    Diabetes can damage nerves related to sexual performance.  Men are more often affected by this than women. If diabetic neuropathy affects the nerves that supply the blood vessels to the penis, erection may be diminished, or impossible. Women with diabetes have fewer sexual problems related to long-term complications. Decreased libido and vaginal dryness may occur somewhat more frequently than in women without diabetes.
    Hyperglycaemia
    Prolonged hyperglycemia can make you feel tired. This may reduce your sexual desire and interfere with erections. Hyperglycemia can also promote uncomfortable fungal infections in the vagina and on the penis. This results in pain and itching and can reduce your desire for sex. If you do have intercourse, the infection can spread to your partner. Improved diabetes control and use of a fungicide cream will normally cure the infection within a few days.
    Hypoglycaemia
    Hypoglycaemia may cause you to feel uncomfortable and interfere with sexual enjoyment. The fall in blood sugar during intercourse is usually small and the risk of passing out is low. Still, many people have experienced hypoglycaemic episodes during intercourse, or later during the night. Activity prior to intercourse, such as dancing or drinking alcohol, may contribute to these episodes. In any case, the fear of hypoglycaemia may reduce sexual desire and satisfaction.
    Sexual problems
    Many of the problems people experience with sexuality are psychological in nature. People with diabetes can have the same problems with relationships as people without diabetes. In many cases, partners can resolve their problems by talking honestly with each other. In other cases, the couple may need help from a doctor, nurse, psychologist or other specially trained professional.
    Diabetes and pregnancy
    Many people with diabetes want to have children. Most women with diabetes can go through a normal pregnancy just like any other woman. However, the woman with diabetes must plan her pregnancy carefully. It is important that the blood sugar is well controlled before conception occurs. This means that the woman with diabetes, and her partner, must use effective contraception until tight blood sugar control is achieved. Planned pregnancies should be discussed with your diabetes team. For more information on diabetes and pregnancy, click here 
    Diabetes, sexuality and you
    Living with diabetes affects every area of your life. This includes all of the issues surrounding sexuality. For some, adjusting to changes in these areas will be easy. For others, it will be more difficult. It is important to be honest about your concerns and about the problems that you may face. Your diabetes care team is ready and willing to help.
  • Visiting your diabetes clinic+

    Why visit the clinic?
    Although you are in charge of treating your diabetes, it is still a team effort to take good care of your health. The diabetes care team at the clinic will support you and your family and answer any questions you may have. They will give you the guidance you need to take good care of your diabetes and to get the best possible quality of life.
    The diabetes care team will be able to give you the best guidance if you are well prepared for your visit to the clinic. This is how you can prepare yourself: test your blood sugar regularly; record the readings and make notes in your dairy; look for patterns of blood sugar readings you would like to improve; prepare questions for the team; take your diary with you to the clinic.
    At the clinic your overall condition will be checked. You can discuss test results, your blood sugar readings and other information from your diary with the diabetes care team. This will help you and your doctor to set new goals for your treatment so that you can make better decisions about controlling your blood sugar at home. You may also be given written information about test results and about any adjustments to your treatment.
    Tests and examinations
    At the clinic, your blood will be tested for sugar, HbA1c and possibly cholesterol. HbA1c shows how well your diabetes has been controlled over the last 12 weeks. You’ll also have your blood pressure measured regularly. Your urine may be tested for sugar, ketones and albumin. Regular examinations of your heart, eyes, feet, and nervous system are important. You should have them examined once a year or even more frequently, if a problem exists. You may also discuss your weight and diet with a dietitian.
    Your family and friends can be a great support to you in taking care of your diabetes. Your family should know what is going on at the clinic. It may be helpful to bring a family member to clinic appointments from time to time or you may prefer to bring a friend to the clinic. Your friend can ask questions and learn from the diabetes care team.
    Your diabetes care team can offer you advice but it’s ultimately up to you to carry out your treatment plan. Sometimes, even if you do everything your diabetes care team advises, your body may not respond as expected. Adjustments in your treatment may be needed. Since you are the first to detect any problems, your diabetes care team counts on you to tell them how your treatment plan is working. This will help them give you the best support.
  • Diabetes and blood pressure+

    What do the two readings for a blood pressure mean and what are normal levels?
    Two numbers measure the level of blood pressure. The higher level records the pressure as the heart muscle pushes blood out of the heart. The lower level records the pressure as the heart relaxes between beats. The normal level is usually about 120 over 80 but varies with age, activity and general health. If your blood pressure is recorded as higher than 135 over 85 and you currently are not under medical supervision, you are recommended to have a medical examination. One high reading is not an indication of high blood pressure, but does warrant rechecking.
    In 1998 the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) reported its findings. One area it had studied was the effect of blood pressure on the complications of diabetes. The report found that by keeping your blood pressure under 140/80 you could reduce your risk of death from diabetes complications (such as heart attack and stroke) by up to 30 per cent. To do this, however, often means taking a variety of blood pressure tablets.
    Remember
    • Watch your weight
    • Reduce your salt intake to a minimum
    • Take regular moderate exercise e.g. with medical approval build this up to 30 minutes brisk walking every day of the week
    • Reduce your alcohol intake; ask your doctor or nurse for advice
    • Stop smoking. Although smoking does not cause high BP, it can make strokes, heart attacks, kidney and eye damage more likely.
    • Take your blood pressure tablets as directed. If they cause side effects, let your doctor know so that an alternative tablet can be used.
    Microalbuminuria is tiny amounts of albumin (a protein) found in the urine. This indicates that your kidneys are not getting rid of waste products as effectively as they should. The presence of albumin acts as a warning sign that you are at increased risk of the long-term complication associated with diabetes, which can affect the kidneys. The results of the UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) showed that to avoid all complications it is important to aim for near normal blood glucose levels (4-7 mmol/ls before meals) and also to treat raised blood pressure.
    It has also been suggested that starting blood pressure treatment early, in those found to have microalbuminuria, can help reduce the risk of developing kidney damage. The tablets your doctor has prescribed are probably one of a group of tablets called ACE inhibitors (captopril, enalapril, etc). These do lower blood pressure but also seem to have a protective effect on the kidneys. Taking the tablets, if your blood pressure is normal, protects your kidneys without adversely lowering your blood pressure.
    Blood pressure tablets causing cough?
    Certain tablets to treat high blood pressure are known to cause dry coughs in some people, and you may like to arrange to see your doctor earlier to discuss your throat. Explain your symptoms to him and ask about trying a different blood pressure tablet.
    It’s worth remembering that all medicines have side effects and you need to balance these against the benefit of the medicine.
  • Alternative therapies+

    Many herbal products make claims about the benefits for people with diabetes. However, there is no way of knowing what the long term effects are of taking more than normal dietary amounts of these substances. The issue of taking additional supplements is a complex one and debates are always about what constitutes an effective but safe amount. The whole area of food supplements either herbal, natural or chemical is a grey area as food supplements are not regulated. This means that different brands of supposedly the same substance can vary widely in quality and contents.
    Some regulations exist to ensure that the product contains what is claimed on the label and that it meets a standard of quality. The amounts usually recommended to aid normalization of blood sugars are above daily-recommended doses. Examples of research into the benefits of supplements are quoted regularly but many of these studies are of short duration, lack a comparison group and have not been rigorously designed. I would be very reluctant to recommend purchasing a product without the approval of the diabetes team caring for the person with diabetes.
  • Contraception+

    There are the usual medical issues involved with going on the pill. There is no problem with diabetes control and the pill after the initial readjustment period and it is for this reason that you should make your decision with your own diabetes team. However, there may be issues depending on the length you have diabetes or the presence of other medical problems from your diabetes.
    When you attend your doctor, you will be asked questions to determine that that the pill (and which one) are the most suitable method of contraception for you. The family planning clinic is a good source of information on contraception and safe sexual habits. You can look up your nearest centre through www.ifpa.ie.
  • Diabetes and your mental health+

    Depression
    There does appear to be a link between diabetes and the incidence of depression, however, what the link is has not been proved as yet. In recent years, the two conditions do seem to be more common together, but it should be remembered that diabetes is not the only chronic condition where depression occurs.
    If you feel you have depression seek advice from your doctor and he/she can recommend the most effective means of treatment for you.
    Feeling overwhelmed by your diagnosis
    This is a perfectly natural feeling and it should be discussed with people who you feel comfortable with, including your family, friends, and GP/nurse. Many people will find that the diagnosis of diabetes has a profound effect on their feelings. This may cause many emotions to surface including anger, frustration, loneliness, sadness, depression, confusion and so on. First of all you should acknowledge that these feelings are part of the grieving process of adjusting to life with diabetes. These feelings are a natural reaction whenever we experience a life-changing event. You should discuss and explore these feelings with trusted friends and family, and even within local diabetes support groups. You should take some comfort in the fact that you are not alone, there are many people available who are willing to help and listen. 
    Can my diabetes affect my mood?
    Mood swings are associated with uncontrolled diabetes regardless of the type of diabetes a person has. Uncontrolled diabetes can aggravate underlying issues as also can not accepting diabetes. Ups and downs are a normal part of living. When you use the word mood swings it implies that the ups and downs are more dramatic. If the ups and downs cause distress to the individual or others, they should be discussed with a healthcare professional.
    It is important to monitor blood glucose control and changes in mood. It may be helpful to keep a mood diary and bring this along to your next check-up.
    Aim for as good as control as possible, eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise and have some time out from everyday activities for yourself.
  • Diabetic foods+

    What are diabetic foods?
    In the past, the labelling has been associated with confectionery foods ie sweets, biscuits, cakes and chocolate that contained a bulk sweetener like sorbitol or fructose instead of sugar (sucrose).These products could be labelled sugar-free as the bulk sweeteners are not classed as sugars. However, the products have similar nutritional content as standard confectionery foods and therefore still raise blood glucose levels in a similar way and contain similar calories.
    Is it ok to eat some diabetic foods?
    ‘Diabetic foods’ are not recommended as many contain more fat and energy than other foods and are often low in fibre. The general rule appears to be if they are reduced sugar, they are high in fat, and low fat means high in sugar. A small piece of ordinary (sweetened) cake or chocolate on the odd occasion after a regular meal is probably less harmful.
    What is the difference between bulk sweeteners and intense sweeteners?
    Bulk sweeteners are nutritive sweeteners that contain calories. They also raise blood glucose levels in people with diabetes so they behave like sugars but they are not classed as sugars so products they are used to sweeten can be labelled sugar-free. Intense sweeteners are sugar free and calorie free and are available in tablet, liquid and sprinkle/granulated form and are also used to sweeten foods and drinks in the food industry.
    What is the difference between diabetic chocolate and standard chocolate?
    Diabetic chocolate contains a bulk sweetener like fructose or sorbitol in place of sugar. Both diabetic and standard chocolate will raise blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. Diabetic chocolate has been shown to be more expensive and generally higher in fat content than standard chocolate. Surveys in the past have indicated that it can be four times the price of standard chocolate.
    Food labels
    The European Commission is still considering the issue of labelling, both, for people with diabetes, and in general, to enable consumers to have the appropriate information to be able to choose a balanced diet. So, at the moment, there is no specific guidance for food manufacturers to follow as far as labelling a product as “suitable for people with diabetes.”
    The current status is a Trading Standards issue and in general the labelling of a food as diabetic is still related to bulk sweetener content versus sugar content. This practice is not helpful to people with diabetes as the so-called “diabetic” product provides no real benefit in terms of nutritional value or effect on blood glucose levels, in the context of the contribution of confectionery to the diet. The focus on sugar content is also not in line with the key aims of dietary management in diabetes care which are weight management and to minimise the risk of cardiovascular disease. 
    I often see the term “unsweetened” on labels, what does this mean? 
    The term unsweetened is an advertising slogan and only means that no additional natural sugars have been added, although, bulk sweeteners may have been added. Looking at food labels can determine how healthy something is.
    Low sugar is used for products containing 5 grams or less in 100 grams of product. Reduced sugar is used for products containing one third of the fat/sugar of an original product. Watch out for fat-free foods containing lots of sugar though and vice versa.
  • Diet+

    Do I need to eat a special diet now that I have diabetes?
    No. The diet for diabetes is a balanced healthy diet, the same kind that is recommended for the rest of the population — low in saturated fat, refined sugar and salt, with plenty of fruit and vegetables and meals based on starchy foods, such as bread, potatoes, cereals, pasta and rice. If you are overweight, it is recommended that you reduce your food intake sufficiently to lose 2 lbs (around 1 kg) a week in weight.
    Can I still have some sugar in my diet?
    Yes. The diet for diabetes does not mean a ‘sugar free’ diet. Sugar can be eaten as part of a balanced, healthy diet without having a harmful effect on blood glucose control. However, you should still try to cut down on sugary foods and drinks since eating them has implications for tooth decay, weight control and the overall balance of your diet.
    Blood glucose control depends on diabetes medication and lifestyle factors, such as how much activity you do as well as what you eat.
    As we are all different in terms of our nutritional needs, the limits are different too. Lots of foods contain sugar – natural or added – and it is the overall food choices you make, rather than just one food, that will determine whether you are eating a healthy diet.
    Tips to cut down on sugar:
    • Choose sugar free or low sugar versions of squashes and fizzy drinks. Sugar in a liquid form is rapidly absorbed and raises blood glucose levels quickly
    • Try experimenting by using less sugar in cooking and baking
    • Intense sweeteners can be used to sweeten drinks, sprinkled over cereals or in some puddings instead of sugar
    • Look out for reduced-sugar, low-sugar and sugar-free foods as they can help you to reduce the overall sugar content of your diet. Remember that the fat, calorie, fibre and salt content of the diet is important too
    • Although jam is a high-sugar food you only have a teaspoon or two on a slice of bread so the amount of sugar per serving is small. You may like reduced sugar jams because of the flavour but remember they won’t keep as long
    • Savoury foods that contain sugar (like some sauces, soups and vegetables) can be eaten as usual
    • Choose the reduced-sugar versions of foods you tend to eat larger portions of and which you may eat regularly as part of a healthy diet
    • Although you may worry about the sugar content of cakes, confectionery and biscuits, it’s the fat that is more of an issue. Some varieties of biscuits such as garibaldi, ginger nut or rich tea are also lower in fat — so compare nutrition information per biscuit to make a fair comparison
    • As an alternative to cake there are lower fat baked products available, such as teacakes, malt loaf, scones and muffins. However, a piece of fancy cake on a special occasion such as a birthday will not harm the balance of your diet
    • Biscuit and cakes should not form a large part of your diet so those labelled reduced fat or reduced sugar will not offer a big reduction in the overall fat and sugar that you eat.
    Which fruits contain the most sugar?
    People with diabetes can eat any kind of fruit, regardless of the sugar content. Everyone is encouraged to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
    Do I need to eat special diabetic foods?
    There is no need for anyone with diabetes to eat special diabetic foods like biscuits, chocolate, jams or sweets. Instead you can eat ordinary chocolate, biscuits and jams as part of an overall balanced diet. The diabetic foods often cost a lot more, and tend to be just as high in fat and calories as ordinary products. They usually contain a bulk sweetener, such as fructose or sorbitol, which can have a laxative effect and make blood glucose levels rise. Diabetic foods are unnecessary and offer no special benefit to people with diabetes.
    Remember that all confectionery, cakes and biscuits are high in fat and calories and need to be limited according to the individual.
  • Hair and Beauty+

    Does the perming process affect my diabetes?
    There is no reason why diabetes should affect the perming process, and there is no reason to believe that perms will not take in people with diabetes. However, as the process involves chemical alterations to the hair structure, there will be a wide variation in the susceptibility of an individual’s hair to perming. Try a different perming solution, as you may have developed an intolerance to the one that you usually use.
    I’ve been told I can’t have electrolysis because of my diabetes. Why not?
    Many places offering electrolysis treatment will refuse to take people with diabetes unless they have a covering letter from their doctor. Actually, there’s usually no danger and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go ahead unless you have neuropathy (nerve damage) in the area on which you are having electrolysis. In this unusual case, you might not be aware if the treatment is causing any damage or discomfort. Remember to use a registered beautician.
    Is there any problems with waxing and diabetes? 
    For people with diabetes, the issues of hair removal while similar to those of people without diabetes, do require extra consideration. Firstly if someone has any diabetes related problems with their legs or feet, it would not be advisable to use a waxing treatment. There is the potential that this treatment may aggravate the problem or cause an injury due to either the hot wax, the trauma of the removal of the wax or a combination of both. However if someone with diabetes did not have any diabetes related leg, foot or skin complications then waxing treatments are not contra indicated. However caution should always be exercised to avoid using wax that is very hot as it may cause a burn to the area.
    My health club has refused to let me use their sunbed and sauna. Why?
    There is no reason why someone with diabetes should be banned from using a sunbed. The dangers of skin damage caused by this treatment are the same for everyone. However, if you’re on insulin or sulphonylureas the heat from a sunbed or sauna could affect your blood glucose levels, so you need to tell people at the club how to spot and treat hypoglycaemia. You should also check that your blood glucose level isn’t too low before you start. Keep something to treat a hypo with you – not with your clothes in the changing room.
    I have a very dry scalp and sores. Are these caused by having diabetes?
    Dry scalp and sores are not normally associated with diabetes. However, if your blood glucose is raised, this may be aggravating an underlying problem. If the problem is only in your head, it may be an allergic reaction to something you are using in your hair. Talk to your pharmacist about getting special hair products.
  • Tattoos+

    If I have diabetes can I still get a tattoo?
    Tattoos should only be done by a registered tattooist who adheres to good standards. It is important to remember that if you do not have good control, you may be prone to infection, poor healing, and scaring. Individuals with sensory (feeling) neuropathy would be well advised not to have a tattoo.

    I would like to get a henna tattoo but I was wondering if they were safe for people with type 1 diabetes?
    The normal guidelines for having tattoos apply plus you need to have a patch test to ensure you are not allergic to the henna. A registered tattooist who adheres to good standards should only do tattoos. It is important to remember that if you do not have good control, you may be prone to infection, poor healing, and scaring. Individuals with sensory (feeling) neuropathy would be well advised not to have a tattoo.
  • Smoking+

    Tobacco is the only consumer product that harms every person exposed to it and kills half of its regular users. Smoking increases the risk of a premature death. Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease, the combination of diabetes and smoking carries an even higher risk.
    Smoking damages your lungs and circulation as well as your heart. It lowers the amount of oxygen that gets to your organs, while raise your bad cholesterol, and raising your blood pressure. All of these can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.
    Smoking is also known to be an independent risk factor for insulin resistance which often leads to diabetes; it is a major factor in the development and progression of diabetic neuropathy. Smoking can also impact on your sight by contributing additional risk of developing retinopathy.
    The overall prevalence of cigarette smoking in Ireland in June 2010 was 23.6% (Irish Cancer Society). However, more women smoke than men and smoking is more prevalent among people in partly-skilled and unskilled occupations; among women in this group for instance up to 56% smoke cigarettes.
    There are more than one million smokers in Ireland and smoking is now costing the HSE €2 billion each year.
    Some Other Dangers of Tobacco:
    • One in two smokers will die of a tobacco related illnesses.
    • Smoking is responsible for 80% of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
    • Smokers are at 10 to 16 times more at risk of developing PAD (Peripheral Arterial Disease).
    • 75-98% PAD caused by smoking, PAD leads to claudication, gangrene and may necessitate amputation.
    • Smoking increases the risk of stroke and an increase in cognitive disorders, dementia and depression.
    • Smoking can cause infertility.
    • Smoking may cause impotence in men
    • The average smoker loses between 5-6 years of life as a result of smoking.
    Quitting Smoking:
    70% of smokers want to quit but nicotine is the highly addictive drug. Only understanding nicotine and the nature of addiction can ultimately help when supporting smokers to quit.
    Quitting smoking will nearly immediately help your heart and lungs—and it lowers the risk of hurting your blood vessels, eyes, nerves, and other organs.
    Different strategies for giving up smoking work for people. Some find that a ‘cold turkey’ approach works and may find that quitting all at once works for them, other gradually taper off their smoking gradually by cutting back over several weeks before defeating their addiction completely.
    There is evidence that nicotine patches, chewing gum, inhalers, or spray can also help. You can also ask your doctor for a prescription medicine or explore counseling, acupuncture, or hypnosis.
    Life after Nicotine:
    Once to have quit smoking you will have drastically reduced the risk of developing a major diabetes-related complication.
    People who give up smoking experience often report having more energy, fewer headaches, and greater ease in walking. You can also expect your hair, gums, teeth and breath to benefit from giving up. On top of that you’ll save hundreds of euro from giving up!
    Visit the National Smokers Quitline below or call (1850) 201 203 for help to quit smoking.