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Combatting the psychological effects of diabetes

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Many diabetic patients will be distressed Many diabetic patients will be distressed

In the UK there are currently 2.6 million people diagnosed with diabetes, and this is projected to rise to 4 million by 2025. The psychological effects that follow a diabetes diagnosis are seldom discussed but are complex and individualised. while some patients may already have underlying mental health conditions that are independent of their diagnosis, numerous others will develop conditions as a direct result of discovering they have diabetes. It is estimated that as many as 41% of diabetes patients suffer from poor mental wellbeing while only 30% of patients felt ‘in control’ of their diabetes.

With an escalating percentage of the population impacted by diabetes, the involvement of a Diabetes Specialist Nurse (DSN) can be essential in aiding to prevent depression and anxiety, amongst other conditions such as eating disorders and needle phobia. The personable approach of a DSN to their patient allows them to form a relationship, and access to tools such as Toujeo Coach not only connect patients and DSNs, but also provide the backbone to a support programme that encompasses psychiatrists and dieticians too.

Depression is at least twice as likely to affect diabetes patients than the general population and often stems from struggling to accept the new reality of their condition. There is also a vicious cycle when it comes to depression and diabetes, where the symptoms of depression can impede proper diabetes management, which can then exacerbate the symptoms of depression and so the cycle continues.

Contrarywise to depression, the added stress around regularly counting carbohydrates, measuring insulin levels, as well as the long-term effects of diabetes can manifest as anxiety. Simply the knowledge of the increased risk diabetes patients are at regarding heart disease or kidney disease, for example, can further this. One study even found that the emotional stress induced by having diabetes impacted blood glucose level control.

But the power of nurses in influencing the outcome for patients is truly astonishing. By acting as an educator, a specialist practitioner, a support network and also a friend they can not only help their patients manage their condition but also identify and help battle the psychological effects which come hand in hand.

Lesley Mills, Consultant Nurse in Diabetes/NMP lead, Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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