Complications Have Names, Too.

If you’re on Twitter, or if you follow The Grumpy Pumper online, you’ve probably seen his many posts chronicling long term treatment for a foot ulcer (or a foot condition – my memory is a bit patchy here). Grumps quickly realised that there was a lot of stigma attached to diabetes complications, and that not that many people were inclined to talk openly about them.

That’s where the hashtag #TalkAboutComplications was born. Grumps hosted a series of guest posts on his blog, where people began to share their own stories around dealing with diabetes complications. There’s also a Facebook group ‘Talk About Complications’ run by the International Diabetes Federation where people can find peer support around diabetes complications.

Renza Scibilia jumped on board, doing what she does best in addressing the need for better language and attitudes around diabetes complications in order to remove the stigma associated with them. Because, #LanguageMatters too.

Ascensia Diabetes Care are also working in consultation with Grumps to encourage more open discussions online. At the ADC in August last year, I learned that the goal was to bring the active conversation that was happening on Twitter over to Facebook and Instagram, among broader social media platforms.

There’s currently a new campaign running on the Contour Diabetes Solutions page on Facebook. It started recently, I believe that there is still more content to come.

Earlier today a Tweet caught my eye, observing that complications are still presented as an end point, posing the question as to how can we do better.

Which brings me to my next point. I say this as someone who certainly isn’t a diabetes veteran, or experienced a diabetes complication of my own.

I don’t like the words ‘diabetes complications.’ From the minute my diabetes educator brought them up as a possibility of what could happen when I was first diagnosed, they felt like dirty words.

Associating health conditions with diabetes infer that I got them because I did something wrong. Because I didn’t manage my diabetes well enough. I read the phrase diabetes complications, and I personally see blame on my diabetes straight away.

I wonder why we don’t simply call these conditions by their actual names. I have a very rough idea of some of the diabetes related conditions that may pop up, but I definitely don’t know enough about them. Maybe if we were more specific about what diabetes complications are, instead of focussing on them being a result of diabetes, it might be easier for me to learn more about them. Because ‘diabetes complications’ aren’t exactly clickbait to me.

We human beings have this insatiable need to know how or why something happened. In my experience, at least, Italians love to talk. Everyone has to know how something happened. Just think about loss, for example.

Does it really matter how I developed another health condition? Does that really bring any comfort to the person actually going through it?

Complications have names, too.

Photo credit: Ascensia Diabetes Care.


  1. Tony Sangster

    Thank you Frank for raising the sometimes feared topic if what i call diabetes-related complications. If you believe Dr. Bernstein, diabetics of more than a few years all have some degree of complications. Just sometimes very subtle and either not detected or not looked for. But like him some diabetics have been noted to reverse the diabetes-related complications that have appeared – but have sometimes had temporary worsening of their complications before improvement. Dr Bernstein is living proof, as are others, that reversal of complications is sometimes possible. Furthermore it is perhaps chastening to read that diabetes-related eye complications have been detected for HBAIC readings above 5.5%. So as far as stigma-related issues go many if us are in fact likely to be in the same boat. Finally there are respected scientists and doctors whose research and studies have shown that the best first approach for management of diabetes is a low carb diet, despite the recommendations based around the Australian Dietary Guidelines by Diabetes SA, the talk of individual diets for individual diabetics and what the DAA trots out. The survey study in Pediatrics ( journal) June 2018 Management of Type One Diabetes with Very Low Carbohydrate Diet authors Lennerz, Ludwig et al. shows what is possible for child and adult Type One diabetics to achieve.

  2. Rick Phillips

    Well name a complication and I or my mom have likely have it. I suggest that complications are things that happen to those of us with diabetes in greater number. Kidney disease? well that happens to many people, but what is the largest group? PWD’s. Blindness because of retinopathy? yes happens to many but each of us have the risk regardless of diabetes. It goes on and on.

    I do not mind the issues being called complications.

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