group smiling at camera
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Blame and Shame Aren’t Helpful

Skinny people can get diabetes, too. Sure, lifestyle plays a big role, but so do genes and ethnic background. Type 2 diabetes is about the body not making enough insulin and not properly using what it does make. There are things your friend can do to improve their diabetes, but the blame game doesn’t help. It’s better to help with problem solving.

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man reading medical bill
2 / 15

This Disease Is Expensive

Between doctor visits, testing supplies, and medications, care for diabetes is very pricey. One recent study found that people with diabetes spend nearly three times more for deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance than those without diabetes.

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roller coaster
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There Are Ups and Downs

Even when your friend is doing everything right -- counting carbs, planning meals, going for daily walks -- sometimes their diabetes is out of control. Stress and hormones can mess with blood sugar.

The disease is also progressive. What once worked may not do the job anymore. Damage to your friend’s pancreas can get worse over time. That can give them less insulin to work with. Many times, people with the disease need more medicine as time goes on.

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friends cooking
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Encouragement and Support Are Critical

Instead of pointing out shortcomings, encourage and praise your friend when you see them make a healthy choice. Tell them that cauliflower-crust pizza looks delicious. Invite them out for a walk or a bike ride. Work with your friend to tweak a favorite recipe so it fits in their meal plans. Offer to drive them to the doctor or to help create a weekly meal plan.

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hiking
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Keep Those Invites Coming

Just because your friend has diabetes doesn’t mean they can’t do things with you. They may need to plan ahead and make a few adjustments, but they can still attend parties, go to amusement parks and restaurants, go hiking, camping, dancing, or participate in countless other things.

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blood sugar test
6 / 15

Look for Signs of Low Blood Sugar

Your friend may not always realize when theirs gets too low. That can make thoughts foggy. If your friend seems tired, weak, shaky, dizzy, sweaty, or irritable, suggest that they check their blood sugar. You may even want to ask if you can bring them some juice.

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boring conversation
7 / 15

Stop Talking About Cures

Resist the urge to tell your friend about the latest miracle cure you read about. Sticking to their diet plan, losing weight, and exercising will help control their blood sugar. But their diabetes won’t go away completely.

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woman eating chocolate
8 / 15

One Piece of Candy Won’t Kill Me

Don’t get judgmental on them or freak out. As long as they plan for their sweets as part of a healthy meal plan or combine them with exercise, your friend can have a little dessert. Sweets are no more forbidden for them than they are for you. They just have to have a small portion and make sure they account for the carbs.

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person holding ankle
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My Foot Pain Can Be Terrible

Sometimes the foot pain with diabetes is so bad that people can barely walk. This can really make it hard for people with the disease to get the exercise they need. Over time, diabetes can result in nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy. It causes burning, tingling, and stabbing pains. Some days the pain makes it hard to function at all. Eventually, neuropathy can also make them lose feeling in their feet. 

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thunderstorm over dirt road
10 / 15

Don’t Be All Doom and Gloom

Yes, your friend knows some people with diabetes lose their eyesight, or have a foot amputated, or need dialysis. But they don’t need to be reminded of it. These are worst-case scenarios that are much more likely to happen to people who don’t manage their diabetes well.

If your friend works hard to control their blood glucose levels, checks their feet every day, and goes to the eye doctor every year, they can help prevent these and other complications.

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tired woman
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Diabetes Has Lots of Hidden Effects

Diabetes can affect every part of your friend’s body, especially if they don’t keep tight control of their blood sugar.

Daily symptoms can include fatigue, thirst, hunger, needing to pee a lot, and mood swings. Possible long-term effects include heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve pain, numbness, sexual dysfunction, non-healing wounds, dental problems, vomiting, diarrhea, and depression.

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woman rejecting donuts
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Changing Habits Is a Struggle

People with diabetes have to change decades-long habits. Exchanging unhealthy routines for healthy ones requires constant attention. Your friend probably has to think about it and make conscious decisions all day. Sometimes, they’ll slip up, but they can always start working at it again.

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rocks balancing
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Managing Diabetes Is a Big Job

All this can be complicated, time-consuming, and exhausting. On top of the regular responsibilities of life, your friend:

  • Checks and treats their blood sugars
  • Counts their carbs
  • Plans their meals
  • Exercises
  • Takes medicines
  • Checks and gives added care to their feet
  • Keeps up with doctor and dietitian appointments

It’s a constant balancing act.

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steaming kettle
14 / 15

Sometimes, a Vent Helps

Your friend can get frustrated, tired, and overwhelmed. There comes a point when they need to let it out. They just need you to listen. Don’t take on their problems or try to solve them. After they’re through, help them reframe their thoughts. Then, talk through some solutions.

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woman smiling at camera
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I’m Still Me

Diabetes doesn’t define your friend. The person they are now is no different from the person they were before they were told they had diabetes. Some of their behaviors and habits may have changed -- for the better. They aren’t their disease. They aren’t “diabetic.” They’re a person with diabetes.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 11/19/2018 Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on November 19, 2018

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SOURCES:

Diabetes Forecast.

DiaTribe Foundation.

Joslin Diabetes Center.

Robert Owen, person with diabetes, Marietta, GA.

Pham N. Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, January 2016.

Mayo Clinic.

American Diabetes Association.

Terry Earley, person with diabetes, Atlanta.

Kaiser Health News: “Cost Of Diabetes Drugs Often Overlooked, But It Shouldn’t Be.”

Health Cost Institute: “Per Capita Health Care Spending on Diabetes: 2009-2013.”

Cleveland Clinic.

KidsHealth: “My Friend Has Diabetes. How Can I Help?”

Gao J.  BMC Family Practice, May 2013.

CDC.

Defeat Diabetes Foundation.

FDA: “Illegally Sold Diabetes Treatments.”

Consumer Reports: “Watch Out for Fake Diabetes Treatments.”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Type 2 Diabetes and Dietary Supplements: What the Science Says.”

National Eye Institute: “Facts About Diabetic Eye Disease.”

National Kidney Foundation: “Diabetes - A Major Risk Factor for Kidney Disease.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Susan Owen, person with diabetes, Marietta, GA.

Duprez, C. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, September 2015.

Boundless: “Venting is Bad for You … and Others.”

University of the Sunshine Coast: “Reframing Your Thinking.”

Nils, F. and Rime, B. European Journal of Social Psychology, September 2012.

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on November 19, 2018

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.