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  • New diabetes tech helps ease mental burden

    Author: AAP

Five years ago, Ashlea Davidson was told by her doctor she would need to take insulin every day for the rest of her life.

The shock diagnosis left her reeling.

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"The emotional toll is way bigger than anything else that I've dealt with," she told AAP.

"The sickness, the headaches, it's the emotions of how much mental energy you need to use to effectively manage things."

Like about 130,000 other Australians, Ms Davidson has incurable type 1 diabetes and during National Diabetes Week, is keen to help highlight the personal impact and stigma related to the condition.


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"It was probably about three months after I was diagnosed, that's probably when I just crashed and got quite depressed," she said.

"I was really stressed about it."

Up to half of people with diabetes are thought to have a mental illness like depression or anxiety and more than 80 per cent report feeling blamed or shamed, Diabetes Australia says.

Those living with type 1 can also make up to 180 decisions a day to do with monitoring glucose levels, food intake and exercise.

An essential part of the management required has to do with the former, which gives them the information needed to administer insulin.

Traditionally, they have used finger-pricking, which takes time and requires clean hands to draw blood.

"You get people staring and unwanted comments sometimes," Ms Davidson said.

"So, I really only did it in private."

In a welcome move, however, the federal government this month began subsidising Continuous Glucose Monitoring technologies for Australians with type 1 diabetes.

Ms Davidson uses FreeStyle Libre 2 CGM, comprising a small, thin sensor worn on the back of her arm for 14 days at a time, with a smartphone application that tracks and stores data.

While saving time and money, she says the device importantly allows her to "mentally check out from diabetes safely for a little bit".

The technology also features optional alarms that alert her when her glucose levels drop dangerously without notice.

"Diabetes is always in the back of your mind and you're not really enjoying yourself until you test," she said.

"But I know I'm going to get an alarm and know that I'm okay to walk around and enjoy myself and if it goes off, it goes off, I'll deal with it."

DA spokeswoman Renza Scibilia says research shows 47 per cent of people with diabetes experience mental health challenges related to the condition but the new technology takes away a lot of the guesswork.


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