We like to talk about "no limits" with diabetes. But that doesn't mean there aren't any, or that we all don't worry about them at times.

This week, enjoy a little "Can I...?" advice from our  Ask D'Mine expert, veteran type 1, diabetes author and community educator Wil Dubois.

{Need help navigating life with diabetes? Email us at AskDMine@diabetesmine.com}




So when I'm not doing the whole pen-is-mightier than the sword thing, I'm a soldier in the diabetes trenches, fighting on the frontlines of the diabetes epidemic. Yep. I'm hunkered down, bullets whizzing by, artillery shells falling from the sky... What? Oh... Right. I'm doing that whole Snoopy as the World War I flying ace thing again, aren't I?

We writers tend towards over-active imaginations.

OK. So it really isn't that kind of warfare. Most of the healthcare battles I fight are with insurance companies (picture me on the phone screaming, "Because my frickin' patient is going to DIE if you don't cover the damn medication, that's why!"). And in this war I'm in no real physical danger beyond the risk of ulcers and perhaps an aneurism, but no doubt I'll still need to be treated for PTSD at some point.

The good news is that when I'm not fighting insurance companies, I get to work with my fellow PWDs, and that's a lot of fun. And I get asked some interesting questions in the course of a typical day.

Here are a few recent ones from diabetes patients at our clinic that seemed worth sharing with you:


Question #1) Can I donate blood?

Wil@Ask D'Mine answers: What, poking your finger a hundred times a day isn't enough for you? But seriously, most healthy PWDs can donate blood. Um... so by healthy, I mean that you don't have one of the other diseases that makes donating blood a no-no, the so-called "permanent deferral" conditions, above-and-beyond your diabetes. Most of these conditions are obvious: Hepatitis, AIDS, or folks at high risk of these contagious blood borne pathogens; and a few not-so-obvious ones such as anyone who's taken Tegison for psoriasis, and folks who lived on the Isle of Man between 1980 and 1996. No shit. (I'm not making this one up, public health authorities are worried about possible exposure to Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease, the human variant of Mad Cow Disease.)

So your diabetes, by itself, doesn't bar you from donating blood. But if you're person with diabetes who also has AIDS, Hepatitis, takes Tegison for your psoriasis, lives on the Isle of Man, and has a foot fetish, then no. You can't donate blood. (Just kidding on that last one, people with foot fetishes can still donate blood.)

There's one oddball exception to the rule. If you're an otherwise healthy PWD and you took old-fashioned beef insulin (a.k.a. bovine insulin) after 1980, you can't donate blood. This restriction is due to fears of mad cow disease.

You can read more about blood donation restrictions here and here.

Oh and you should donate blood. I do.


Question #2) Can I wear contact lenses? 

Wil@Ask D'Mine answers: Of course you can. But like everything else in diabetes, ya' gotta be smart about it. Remember how diabetes tends to screw up every inch of your body? Well, it turns out your cornea can lose sensation just like your toes can. In theory, that means you could get dirt and grit under your contact lens and not feel any pain, which could lead to eye damage before you were aware of it. So don't leave your contact lenses in for days on end, and clean them often.

In the old days, hard contacts (does anyone even wear those anymore?) weren't recommended for us D-folk. But modern soft lenses have been proven to be safe for us in multiple studies.


Question #3) Is it true insulin isn't a prescription medication? 

Wil@Ask D'Mine answers: Surprise! It's true! You don't need an Rx to buy insulin. In all 50 states you can just walk in to any pharmacy with nothing more than your wallet and buy a vial of "R" or "NPH" and walk back out with your wallet none too worse for wear. (List price of Wal-Mart's ReliOn insulin is $24.88 per vial.) Of course, you may or may not be allowed to buy syringes to go along with your insulin. Little known trivia fact: insulin syringes are the number one choice of intravenous drug users. Oops! I'm told that in Utah, you can't buy syringes after 10 p.m. That said, most pharmacists are reasonable people who will sell you a few syringes with the purchase of your insulin.

If you want to get an idea of how various states view the problem of us (PWDs) vs. them (drug users) when it comes to the whole issue of syringes, take a look at this list. Oh, by the way, this much reproduced internet list is on the old side so take the details with a grain of salt.

What makes this syringe issue doubly vexing is that while many states make PWDs jump through hoops to buy insulin syringes, these same states are giving brand spanking new insulin syringes to IV drug users to lower the spread of HIV and Hepatitis—and don't get me wrong, I do support needle exchange as a public health initiative. But for crying out loud...

By the way, you'll see many folks on the internet stating that "modern" insulins always require an Rx. Not true anymore in all states, but I haven't located a new master list and don't have time to call the pharmacy boards of all 50 states. It's a moot point anyway, as who has a fat enough wallet to shell out $130 for a single vial of modern high-tech insulin?

So what's up with the prescription then? Well, if you have insurance, the Rx is the piece of paper that tracks the transaction so your insulin gets paid for.

On the flip side, the reason a prescription isn't required for buying insulin without insurance is twofold. Without insulin, most people who need it will die. And these same people travel. If the airline loses your Viagra, it'll sure as hell ruin your weekend, but it won't kill you. If the airline loses your insulin, on the other hand...

And in many states the cold reality of poverty is recognized. If you have no insurance you probably can't afford to both pay a doctor for the prescription and to actually buy your insulin. Ain't poverty grand?

Welcome to the trenches.




This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. But we are not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are only a small part of your total prescription. You still need the professional advice, treatment, and care of a licensed medical professional.



Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.


This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.