Eight Essential Lessons They Fail to Teach You*

The volume of information to be learned about diabetes can certainly feel overwhelming at times – especially if you are newly diagnosed. But for many people, what they are taught often skips the essential lessons they need to understand before they can begin absorbing the many ins and outs of treatment.

These are:

1. Diabetes is self-managed. Unlike most other illnesses, your health care professionals cannot simply prescribe a medicine or perform a procedure that will make it go away. Instead, diabetes is a lifelong condition that requires it be managed by the person who has it on a 24/7 basis.

2. Diabetes self-management requires ongoing support and education. Because of the many facets of daily life that will affect the way you feel and your ultimate health (such as what and when you eat and your physical activity levels and schedule), it is important to learn all you can about your illness and how your body reacts to these things. The support of family, friends and your health care professionals will make the job easier. Education and support are lifelong needs that should be ongoing.

3. Diabetes treatments will change over time. Diabetes is a progressive illness that normally requires adjustments in the way it is treated. People who are able to initially manage it through diet and exercise often need to take medications, including insulin. This doesn’t mean that your diabetes is worse. It just means that your body needs more help to keep your blood sugar in the target range. In addition, because diabetes is an area of great research interest, there are new treatments and understandings about diabetes that make it important to keep learning throughout your lifetime with diabetes.

4. Negative emotions are common among people with diabetes. Many people with diabetes have feelings of anger, guilt, fear and frustration associated with their condition. Depression is more common among people with diabetes than in the rest of the population.

5. Behavior change strategies are often needed to manage diabetes. A major part of diabetes self-management involves making changes in how you live your day-to-day life. These changes don’t just happen through the magic of will-power. There are proven methods and strategies that can help you to more successfully make these changes.

6. Diabetes complications are not inevitable. Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated that most of the more serious complications of diabetes can be avoided or at least delayed through effective self-management, including keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure as close to normal as is safe for you.

7. Diabetes self-management involves trial and error. There is no precise formula for treating diabetes that works for everyone. Most people will have to experiment to discover the best treatment for their diabetes.

8. Diabetes self-management is not easy. All of the work and effort required to effectively manage diabetes can be daunting at times. It is hard work, but it is possible, and the outcome of a longer and healthier life is certainly worth the effort.

In the future, we will be addressing each of these lessons in more detail under the “ 8 Lessons” tab. In the meantime, please feel free to share with us your personal experiences on these topics and the aspects that you would like us to include.


*Adapted from Weiss MA and Funnell MM. In the Beginning: Setting the Stage for Effective Diabetes Care, Clinical Diabetes, 27:149-151, 2009.

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Disclaimer: Diabetes is a serious medical condition requiring professional medical care. Information presented on this site is not presented 
as, nor should it be used as a substitute for, medical advice. Always consult your physician immediately if you have concerns about your personal health.