Talking to Others About Your Type 1 Diabetes

Do you remember what it was like when you were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D)? You probably had a lot of questions about how it would impact your life. You may have heard about it before and you probably didn’t have accurate information about T1D. You probably were overwhelmed by the thought of explaining the disease to friends, family, teacher or coworkers, and new people you meet.

The important people in our lives, whether they are friends, family, colleagues, or romantic partners. often don’t understand what it’s like to have type 1 diabetes—much like you before you were diagnosed. But, by educating them about your T1D including what it is, how you manage it (e.g., checking your blood sugar, taking insulin, carb counting, etc.), and informing them about signs of low blood sugar as well as what to do in an emergency, you can get the support you need from them.

You should also reassure them that, although you may need to figure out how to manage your diabetes in different situations, diabetes shouldn’t stop you from doing anything you want to do (or eat) or what you have typically done before – you are still you! You’ll feel more comfortable being yourself and carrying out your diabetes management tasks while around them once they know.

Letting People Know How to Help in Emergencies

One key reason to share your type 1 diabetes with others is that they can take action to help you if an emergency situation arises. Make sure you teach the people in your life how to recognize the symptoms of and treat a severe low blood sugar in case you are unable to treat it yourself and need glucagon.

If you are unresponsive, unconscious, or having a seizure, they will need to give you glucagon or call 911 if glucagon is not available. So teaching them how to use glucagon and when they should give it is very important.

It is also very important to always wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace stating your name, that you have type 1 diabetes, and who to contact in case of an emergency. This way, if there is an emergency and no one around you knows you have diabetes, emergency responders or bystanders can help you.

Talking to Colleagues

Employers are legally obligated to provide “reasonable accommodations” like a place to keep snacks and insulin or breaks to check your blood sugar. Your employer is also required by law to keep any medical issues confidential. Apart from talking with a member of your company’s Human Resources team about accommodations (if you need), it is ultimately your decision whether to share information about your type 1 diabetes with coworkers. For more information about your rights in the work setting you can visit this government website: and read more about Type 1 Diabetes in the Workplace: Your Protections

Disclosing your condition can lead to questions that may seem uninformed or even inappropriate. Your colleagues will likely have the best of intentions. But, if their comments become bothersome, find a time to talk calmly and openly about how you feel and then provide them with the correct information and ways they can be helpful if they want (e.g., what to do in an emergency). By being honest about type 1 diabetes and your experience with it, your colleagues can offer support and practical help as you navigate the workplace with type 1 diabetes.

Talking to Romantic Partners

When you have type 1 diabetes and are involved in a romantic relationship with someone, diabetes is bound to come up sooner or later. When getting to know a new partner in your life, it’s your choice how to approach disclosing your type 1 diabetes. Do you bring it up on the first date, or wait until you know each other a little bit better? Whenever you choose to share is up to you- you need to feel comfortable. Remember that there is no need to hide your type 1 diabetes- there is so much more to you than the disease.

In more serious relationships and marriages, it is all the more important for you to communicate about diabetes, how you manage it, what to do in an emergency, and what your partner can do to support you (and what isn’t helpful support). In turn, it is critical for partners of people with type 1 diabetes to be supportive and understanding. But it is important that they understand from you what they could do to be helpful (instead of unintentionally trying to help but aggravate you).

Support comes in many forms – listening when you are upset about a health issue or frustrated because you have unexplained high blood sugars, to helping you get food if you are low and not feeling well when you are sick, or helping you in an emergency situation when your blood sugar gets too low. For your partner, there may be extra supplies that become part of his or her daily routine, and new considerations around eating a meal or having sex. Since type 1 diabetes touches so many facets of your life, it is important to be open and honest, because it is part of your partner’s life as well.