Brittle… and not the candy

I am realizing that the term “brittle” can be very subjective, especially when referring to someone with diabetes.

When I was pregnant with my first son (who is now 6) my chart referred me as a “brittle diabetic”. I asked my OB/GYN what that meant exactly and she fluffed it off and said “Oh we just say that for anyone who has been diabetic for as long as you have.” Ok … whatever. I don’t really like the “label” but if it’s just for medical purposes, it’s ok I suppose.

Then I met a new friend last year who has become one of my closest friends. She has a now 5 yr old son who was diagnosed at age 2 1/2 and she refers to him as a “brittle diabetic”. I asked her once why she calls him that and she said the dr that dx’d him said his is a “very brittle form of diabetes because of how little insulin it takes to crash him, and how few carbs it takes to skyrocket him.”


With just those two definition alone, would it be better to assume that diabetes in general is a “brittle” disease? So many variables contribute to the level of control we can obtain/maintain.

Still not a fan of the term, though. When I hear the word, I think of bones. 🙂


About Shannon

I am a wife, a mommy, and a Type 1 diabetic (since '92.) I have had two successful pregnancies - one of which was with twins. I wear an insulin pump- - off and on for 17 years; currently on the Medtronic pump and CGM. I am not a medical professional, nor am I giving medical advice. I am just sharing my day to day stories of someone who lives with this disease every day. My ultimate goal is to raise awareness.
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12 Responses to Brittle… and not the candy

  1. I’ve always been confused by that term as well…I mean, there are times when I think, “I’ve got this – it’s not so bad” and then other times when things go to heck in a handbasket for no good reason, I’d venture to say I was “brittle.” When I hear “brittle” I think of peanuts 🙂

  2. Cassie says:

    Not a fan of the term here, either.

  3. StephenS says:

    Shannon, I really have a problem with the term “brittle”. I had a doctor (at the gym, not in a clinical setting) ask me if I was brittle, and I asked him what that means to him. He couldn’t really tell me, then moved on to the “how are your sugars running?” question, which also bugs me. He’s a nice guy, but I’m glad he’s an orthopedist and not an endocrinologist.

  4. Scott E says:

    I hate the term, but I think your friend’s doctor has a better idea of what it means… though not how to use it. Of course a 5-year old, by nature of size and body weight, would be more sensitive to carbs and insulin than a full-grown adult!

    I wouldn’t call diabetes, in general, brittle. Something that is brittle will inevitably give way and collapse. I don’t feel that way about diabetes.

  5. Karen says:

    Oh that term drives me nuts. I’m in a private FB group where one of the members is constantly saying he is brittle. To me, it’s like he is saying his diabetes is much much harder than mine, and I’m really offended by that.


  6. I know someone — a RD, CDE and type 1 — who says she is a brittle diabetic, because of how erratically her BGs can bounce without there being any logical cause for it. I guess it’s a little bit like saying her diabetes is harder to manage. But I also think that most doctors have no idea what it means. Kind of like noncompliant. There *are* people who are noncompliant, just like there are people who have brittle diabetes, but it gets tossed around and put on anyone who is just “too much work” and that’s not what it means at all.

  7. Stacey D. says:

    “I think of bones”. I had to LOL at that 🙂 #dblogcheck

  8. seejendance says:

    When I had my first prenatal OB appointment, the MFM that met with me called me “brittle” and “a challenge” in the same breath. Great, thanks! Glad y’all have faith in me.

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