Asthma v Diabetes

I am often asked what is worse asthma or diabetes?

Let’s be honest neither are great and obviously every person will suffer different symptoms and different severity, both conditions can be well controlled or badly controlled. Whenever I am talking about my health I will always say that I am asthmatic rather than diabetic even though I suffer from both, whether I say this because I have had asthma longer,  or because my asthma is more severe I’m not too sure, however I always consider that my diabetes is a side effect of my asthma (or to be more accurate a side effects of the prednisolone which I take because of my asthma.

One of the side effects prednisolone is that it can increase blood glucose levels and increase insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Usually blood glucose levels will return to normal after you finish taking the steroids. Being on steroids for a longer period of time, over 3 months, may also increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. I have taken prednisolone non stop for 7 or 8 years now and as a result suffer from diabetes. Whenever my prednisolone dose increases so do my blood sugar levels which in turn means that I have to increase my insulin dose.

During an asthma attack, you can not do anything. You can not walk, you can not talk and at times, you can not even think as most of your energy is concentrated on taking the next breath. You worry about exercise or overdoing things, as the risk of an attack always existed Anything could trigger an attack – change in the weather, smoke, strong smell of any kind, pollen, humidity – anything. Some asthma triggers can be avoided but some are just beyond your control – like weather change – what can you do about it? 

Diabetes on the other hand is a silent killer. It does not give you as many immediate problems bar the the odd hypo etc I feel that even when my diabetes is poorly controlled I can still function reasonably well (even suffering from a hypo there is the quick fix of glucose and once that kicks in I start to feel a bit better, admittedly I won’t feel great but as mentioned I feel that I can continue to function, I can still go to work even if my diabetes isn’t great (driving is an issue if am having hypo’s). 

Diabetes has many potential long term issues such as kidney failure, heart attacks, blindness, nerve damage leading to amputation of limbs and many other complications.

In theory diabetes is easier to control than asthma, whether it be via diet, tablets or insulin. Though diabetes is not exactly a straight forward condition I would consider asthma to be much more complicated, most diabetics will have similar symptoms as each other whether suffering from high or low sugar levels the signs are easily identifiable and easily confirmed by using a blood glucose monitor. Asthma has numerous symptoms and despite their been numerous tests and observations that can be carried out during an asthma attack they do not always give a true picture of what is happening. Also during an asthma attack there is no magic treatment which stops the attack, oxygen, nebulisers and magnesium are all like to help but for example a quick nebule will not return you to full health immediately unlike glucose does when having a diabetic hypo.

Both conditions have a lack of understanding from people who don’t suffer from them, there is a perception that diabetics is caused purely by being overweight and having too much sugar in a diet. In the same way many people consider asthma to be a result of being overweight and unfit. Both are chronic conditions which are not always noticeable to the untrained eye, both conditions can be considered as hidden illnesses and both can cause knock on effects such as extreme tiredness and mood swings etc. Both can be psychological roller coaster rides.


So in summary I wish I had neither but in my opinion an asthma attack is worse than a hypo, I am sure that some will disagree! Remember though at least if you have diabetes you don’t face to pay for your prescription!

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