Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Managing diabetes — checking blood glucose levels, taking medicines, and managing diet, weight, and exercise — can be stressful for one person. But most people choose to spend a large portion of their lives living with another person, in a marriage or other intimate relationship. This means that diabetes for one person often becomes, practically, diabetes for two — with all of the potential benefits and hazards that involving another person in such a complex disease would predict. Several studies have sought to examine the impact of diabetes on relationships, and while it is difficult to draw any universal conclusions from them, they may help illuminate the problems and concerns that many couples face.

A recent study, published last month in the journal Diabetes Care, asked adults with Type 1 diabetes and their partners about challenges that they faced. According to a WebMD article on the study, partners ranged from very involved with diabetes management to helping only when asked. Most of the people with diabetes in the study expressed satisfaction with their partner’s level of support and with the relationship overall, with some even noting that the challenges of diabetes had brought them closer together. A smaller number, however, noted that diabetes had led to or worsened problems such as emotional distance, sexual problems, and concerns about hypoglycemia while caring for young children. While none of the participants had hypoglycemia unawareness or experienced hypoglycemia with unusual frequency or severity, it was nevertheless a major concern for many couples.

This study was small and not intended to yield any specific findings; its lead author noted in an article on Medscape that it was intended as a “springboard for further quantitative research.” She plans, however, to unveil the results of a much larger study on the impact of relationships on blood glucose control at the American Diabetes Association’s annual Scientific Sessions in June.

Several studies in the past have examined Type 2 diabetes within relationships. Often there is a focus on the impact and aftermath of the diagnosis, since it is sometimes assumed that diabetes precedes the relationship for Type 1 diabetes, and vice versa for Type 2. One study, published in 2011 in the journal Diabetic Medicine, found that good relationships predicted better adoption of a self-management routine as well as satisfaction with the burden of diabetes management. Participants who fared best in these areas were ones whose partners joined them in recreational activities, which may indicate a willingness to help support a healthy lifestyle.

Do you feel that your relationship — or not being in one — has had a positive or negative effect on your diabetes management? Do you, or would you, like your partner to be intimately involved in your self-care routine, or is it best not to involve him or her too much? Has your diabetes negatively affected your relationship in a significant way? If so, have you found any solutions to the problems it caused? Leave a comment below!

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