Diabetes is a condition that most of us have heard of. Whether it's type 1 or type 2 we all know how dangerous diabetes can be and how vital it is to get a good control of our blood sugar levels. So why are so many doctors now happy to let us get sick?
Mine is a personal story but one that reflects what is happening a lot in recent years. Having had type 1 diabetes for many years, since the age of 10, I've had to learn to control my blood sugar levels which hasn't always been easy. Keeping a steady blood sugar level is the most important thing any diabetic needs to do, and it's a daily, never ending, task! There's a combination of strict diet control along with multitudes of blood tests, detailed calculations, more blood tests and daily injections of insulin. All this is needed to ensure I have something close to a normal life. Although many of us use different insulins and calculations, the best way to keep our blood sugar levels steady is with daily blood tests.
A blood test usually involves a small finger prick with a small and sharp needle - don't worry it's not as painful as it sounds. We then draw a drop of blood by squeezing the finger and place it on a blood test strip connected to a meter. The blood sugar meter takes a few seconds and then you're given a display of your blood sugar level. Whatever the reading is, we can adjust our insulin levels and food to keep the blood sugar in the normal range as much as we can. So blood testing is VERY important and those diabetics on insulin need to test their blood sugars frequently and in my case up to 7 times a day!
Living in the UK I've been getting my blood test strips on the NHS, and I've never had a problem with their supply...until now. After years of having a set supply of blood test strips, enough to get me through each day, I've now had my prescription halved. This may not seem like a big deal to people, and given I'm still getting the test strips I should be okay, right?
Not having enough blood testing strips means I can't tell where my blood sugars are. And if I can't tell where my blood sugars are, I cannot inject the right insulin and to be honest I'm scared to inject anything!
Insulin controlled diabetes is hard to cope with especially when things aren't going well in life. Stress, exercise, the weather, time of the year, time of the month it can all play havoc with the body and create resistance to insulin or sometimes the opposite. Without being able to test my blood sugars throughout the day, I have no way of knowing whether I should eat an extra snack or inject more insulin.
Doctors (in the UK at least) have now started halving or even stopping diabetic prescriptions of blood testing strips in an effort to cut costs. While I understand that diabetic medications cost a lot of money, -the media are more than happy to tell us this whenever there's a story about diabetes on the news - they seem to be missing the point.
The only outcome from people not having their testing strips is messed up blood sugars and in most cases people will stop injecting enough insulin. The consequences of having too low a blood sugar (hypoing) is terrifying and most would rather have their blood sugars too high than too low. This of course will in many cases lead to diabetic complications. It's the reason we are told by our doctors to keep our sugars stable - to avoid those complications!
The cost of treatment of diabetic complications, from eye disease to ulcers, etc is far greater than the cost of the medicines. If all diabetics suffered complications we'd cost the NHS millions in treating those complications. So isn't it common sense to provide us with the means to prevent all this? Isn't prevention better than cure?
Many GPs and NHS doctors today seem to have decided that the cost of prevention is more important than cure. They've decided that it's worth gambling with our lives to save a few pounds every month. I'm going to fight my doctors to get what I need to live a 'normal' life. But there's no guarantee and many other diabetics are suffering the same battle right now.
What do you think? Do you know somebody diabetic or do you yourself have diabetes? What are your views on the restrictions of test strips? Is it worth saving that money to endanger somebody's life and well-being? Any thoughts I'd love to hear them.
This was the first article in what may become a series on diabetes, depending on how well it's received :).
Published by C thehappymeerkat