The language of diabetes

Today’s Diabetes Blog Week Prompt is all about language and diabetes. Here’s the prompt:

There is an old saying that states “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. I’m willing to bet we’ve all disagreed with this at some point, and especially when it comes to diabetes. Many advocate for the importance of using non-stigmatizing, inclusive and non-judgmental language when speaking about or to people with diabetes. For some, they don’t care, others care passionately. Where do you stand when it comes to “person with diabetes” versus “diabetic”, or “checking” blood sugar versus “testing”, or any of the tons of other examples? Let’s explore the power of words, but please remember to keep things respectful.

I love that it’s a prompt about words that needs to ask people to be respectful. Words get folks all riled up sometimes. I work in PR/marketing communications, let me tell you, we have debates about single commas in come of the things that we develop, so of course word choice is important. I’m one of the folks that the above prompt refers to when saying, “May advocate  for the importance of using non-stigmatizing, inclusive and non-judgmental language when speaking about or to people with diabetes.”

I wrote a post about it for Diabetes Mine today, so please head on over there and read it when you’re done here…

My personal feelings are that diabetes (all types) needs better PR and if those of us who live with it don’t use non-judgmental or accurate words, how can we expect others to?

The bulk of my thoughts on this exact post are on Diabetes Mine, but I’d like to revisit some of my musings on the language of diabetes… more specifically on accepting words that I tend to resist in reference to diabetes because they lend it the credibility that it deserves.


A few years ago, I reflected on the fact that diabetes is actually a disease and the idea that I don’t feel like I have a disease. I think words are really important to communicate to people living with conditions like diabetes that you recognize they’re whole people, with lives that encompass more than diabetes. Which is part of why I love this quote:

The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.

William Osler

The word disease sounds serious enough though to give diabetes the credibility that it doesn’t get enough of in the broader community. It’s like we have to prove that diabetes is worthy of understanding, research, fundraising and a cure.

The same goes for words like “sick.” Just like not feeling like I have a disease, I don’t feel like I’m “sick” either. A couple of months ago, a colleague referred to me as being sick and I thought about how many people probably think of me as someone who is “sick.”

No One Can Tell that You’re Sick

Are you sensitive to the use of certain words? Are there words you’ve had to accept are part of life with diabetes?


2 thoughts on “The language of diabetes

  1. Great points about PR around diabetes. In my experience, the media still tend to chase the most sensationalised story about the victim or the sufferer which makes me sad too.

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