Living with diabetes

It is important to understand diabetes can affect your life beyond just your health. Though the majority of people continue to live a completely normal life after being diagnosed, there are a few essential things to know.

 

Driving

If you drive a car and you are on diabetes medications that can cause hypoglycaemia (or if you are prescribed insulin) you must tell the DVLA. You can find the relevant forms to fill in on the DVLA website. If you don’t tell the DVLA, your doctor has an obligation to inform them on your behalf, as having a hypoglycaemic episode whilst driving poses a risk to yourself and others.

If you are on medication that does not cause hypoglycaemia then you do not need to notify the DVLA. Please check with your doctor if you are unsure, and similarly, if you are not on diabetes medications and controlling your diabetes with diet and exercise there is no need to inform the DVLA.

Tips for safe driving

  1. Avoid skipping meals
  2. If you feel unwell, pull over as soon as possible
  3. Always keep sugary snacks in your car in case of hypoglycaemia
  4. Take breaks when traveling long distances

 

Employment

In most cases there is no legal requirement to tell your employer about your diabetes. One exception is in certain safety-critical jobs that may have restrictions on medical conditions including diabetes, however this is assessed on an individual basis.

Some people find it helpful to tell their colleagues at work about their diabetes. This way you can explain to them what to do if you experience a hypoglycaemic episode, and it can help them understand if you need to take time off work for clinic appointments in the week.

If you have any questions, a helpful contact is advocacy@diabetes.org.uk.

 

Insurance

If you have personal insurance, be that life, medical, travel, or car, it is important that you check with your insurance company regarding its policy on diabetes, otherwise your policy may not be valid.

  • Medical insurance: if you have private medical insurance it is important to speak to your provider regarding your diabetes diagnosis and implications for your cover. Each insurance company is different, though many do not cover the costs of long term diabetes care after diagnosis.
  • Travel insurance policies may not cover your for pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, so make sure you check your current insurer’s policy on this. If you are taking out a new policy, always check if you need to declare your diabetes (and any other pre-existing conditions) otherwise it may affect your ability to make a claim.
  • Car insurers can require you to declare medical conditions such as diabetes. Different insurers have different policies, and it may affect your premiums. Please speak with your individual car insurance provider to find out more.

 

Travel

Having diabetes should not stop you going on holiday, though it is important that you’re prepared:

  1. Always bring plenty of supplies (medication, insulin needles, blood glucose monitor, etc.) and a letter from your GP stating which medications you are on and that you have a diagnosis of diabetes.
  2. Make sure you split your medical supplies into two separate bags in case one bag gets lost.
  3. Travelling to another time zone can make taking your medication a bit tricky. Check with your healthcare provider how you might adjust this. If you have alarms on your phone to remind you to take your medications, make sure you change these.
  4. Remember to bring sugary snacks with you on the plane in case you experience a hypoglycaemic episode.
  5. If you are travelling to a hot climate make sure you take precautions to keep cool because hot temperatures can affect your blood sugars levels.

 

Medical alert jewelry

You may want to consider ordering a piece of medical alert jewelry with your diagnosis and medication listed. If you have a hypoglycaemic episode and need treatment, or if you are involved in an accident, it is important for healthcare professionals to know you have diabetes. These healthcare professionals are trained to look for medical alert jewelry, so even if you were unable to speak, they can treat you safely. This is particularly important if you are traveling and your health records cannot be accessed.