Diabetes Terminology: PWD vs D


Do you call yourself a Diabetic?

Or, do you prefer Person with Diabetes?

For 32 years, I’ve referred to myself as a diabetic.

I didn’t think anything of it and honestly, for me, I still don’t.

Calling myself a diabetic is like calling myself a runner, or a cyclist, or a student, or a mom, or a wife – I am all those things.

Heck, even my website is Diabetic to Dietetics.

But for many with this disease this term is no longer okay, it has fallen out of considerable favour, and for some it’s flat-out derogatory.

I get it.

Diabetic is a label. Full stop.

People hear diabetes and they think unhealthy, unfit, poor nutrition, self-induced – there’s a whole lot of judgement in that one word. And it can be detrimental to health and wellbeing.

Whereas “person with diabetes” – now the preferred term – is the person first before the diabetes.

That’s cool.

But it’s kind of clunky and not really me.

After 32 years, I figure “diabetic” is kind of mine.

Yes, there’s judgement, but there’s also power – if I let that power free.

I am a diabetic and I have done a shit ton of stuff that many without this disease have never even thought to do: I’ve run marathons – with type-1 diabetes; I’ve hiked mountains – with type-1 diabetes; I’ve travelled the world – with type-1 diabetes; I’ve given birth – with type-1 diabetes.

I am rocking this life – with type-1 diabetes.

Insta-Diabetes terminology

When I call myself “diabetic” I’m not labelling myself; I’m shouting to the tree tops that I own this disease.

It doesn’t own me.

I respect those who choose to be PWD and I don’t come down on those who choose to be just plain D.

We are all part of the same community.

However, as a healthcare professional, which I soon will be ????????????, I will not call YOU diabetic. I will call you by your preferred name. When speaking with colleagues, I will refer to you as a person with diabetes – you will always be the person first under my care.

The difference here is that healthcare professionals are perceived with power and authority. Their language, their tone can affect a patient greatly.

I know that first hand.

And I refuse to disrespect that authority , no matter what I call myself in this world of T1D.


1. Dickinson, J., Guzman, S., Maryniuk, M., O’Brian, C., Kadohiro, K. … Funnell, M. (2017). The use of language in diabetes care and education. Diabetes Care, 40(12), 1790-1799. https://doi.org/10.2337/dci17-0041

2 thoughts on “Diabetes Terminology: PWD vs D”

  1. Hey Katie,

    An interesting perspective, and one I’ve shared as a T1D for over 36 years. I think some of it stems from changes in society’s habits in recent decades, where our labels define us more than what the label means.

    I agree that “person with Diabetes” feels like a mouthful and I’ve generally always used the simple term of “Diabetic”, although I’ve always been an advocate of saying that it’s what I have and not WHO I am. But I guess when we have a cold or a flu, we rely on saying “I have a cold” and “I have a flu”, not “I am cold” or “I am flu”, so I totally get it.

    Great post, keep ’em coming!

    1. Hahahahaha! I totally laughed at the thought of saying “I am flu” 🙂

      100% yes, it’s something I have, but not something that defines me!

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