CU Leader Resources

There’s a diabetic student in my CU

Most diabetic students will be well used to managing their own condition. They may have had to take responsibility for it from quite an early age and will, as a result, have developed good organisational and coping skills.

Diabetes is a condition which occurs when the pancreas fails in producing the hormone insulin, resulting in increased blood glucose (sugar) levels. It is important to recognise that there are two distinct kinds of diabetes:

Type 1. This usually appears before the age of 40 and results from the autoimmune destruction of the islet cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. This is often due to genetic tendency. Type 1 diabetes is treated by a combination of insulin injections and diet, along with regular blood glucose tests.

Type 2. This type is far more common than Type 1. The pancreas can still produce some insulin, but this will either be insufficient or not work properly. It is more common for adults than children to develop this type, which is usually treated with diet and tablets.

Diabetes is a chronic condition, but it is not visible. There are over 2 million people known to have diabetes in the UK, and so any gathering is likely to contain a number of people with Type 2 and perhaps a few with Type 1. Although some people with Type 2 diabetes eventually progress to needing insulin injections, this is not common and so they do not run the risks associated with insulin. The following therefore applies primarily to Type 1 diabetes. Basically, insulin treatment aims to try and reproduce what happens in someone without diabetes, whose pancreas produces exactly the right amount of insulin to keep blood glucose levels within the normal range, whatever food is being eaten. With diabetes this exact balance is not easy to achieve, and sometimes the blood sugar will be too high or too low. The former situation (hyperglycaemia), if allowed to continue, will eventually cause serious complications but it is not usually critical in the short term (for example in a CU meeting). A low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia or ‘hypo’) on the other hand will need immediate treatment.

Dealing with a ‘hypo’

  1. Excessive sweating
  2. Lack of concentration, or perhaps a slowing down of speech because there is insufficient glucose reaching the brain
  3. Paleness
  4. Hunger
  5. Feeling faint
  6. Blurred vision
  7. Tingling fingers
  8. Sudden irritability

Additional Resources

www.diabetes.org.uk - for help, support and practical advice.

www.diabetes.co.uk - for information on diabetes.

This resource is part of our Accessible CU series, created especially for Christian Unions by Through The Roof, a Christian Disability charity. To read this article in full, and other articles on including disabled students, download the student version of Through the Roof's publication Be a Roofbreaker for just £3.

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