This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.
By Alexandra Frost
Diabetes jewelry is more than just a fashion statement – it’s a lifesaving accessory.
The least attractive bracelet you might be thinking about buying on your next shopping spree is one that announces to the world that you have diabetes. According to some experts, this is the exact purchase that may save your life during a hypoglycemic event or other serious accident.
The American Diabetes Association recommends identifying yourself as someone with diabetes, either through jewelry and/or a medical alert card. Medical identification products can help ensure proper treatment in an emergency and help ensure emergency responders can start the right treatment as soon as possible.
Although medical ID jewelry historically may not have been the most attractive to wear, today’s options, from necklaces and bracelets to rings and watches, are more diverse and personalized than ever.
The case for wearing medical identification
You might think you won’t need emergency attention, especially if you’ve never had a major episode before. But Dr. Ana Maria Kausel, an endocrinologist at Anzara Health, said it might still be a good idea.
“Anyone with type 1 or type 2 on medications that can cause hypoglycemia should wear an alert,” Kausel said. “Hypoglycemia can happen unexpectedly, and it causes altered mental status and can cause unconsciousness. It is easy to revert, and should be reverted quickly in order to avoid brain damage.”
Karen Dillaman, a Pittsburgh-based guardian of two teenage children with type 1 diabetes, said that the endocrinologist recommends her children wear medical ID jewelry and even checks for it at every appointment. “As a parent, you’d feel safer if they have some ID on if they ever have an episode,” she said. “At least the ambulance is going to know to look at that first thing to see if they have some kind of ID on.”
Kausel, the endocrinologist, tells the tale of a patient, a 40-year-old male who had type 1 diabetes for over 20 years. In the early years, he could notice himself becoming hypoglycemic, but over time, he wasn’t able to feel when his blood sugar was going low. This is called hypoglycemia unawareness.
“He was found one day naked and screaming on the street and when paramedics arrived, his glucose was 20 [and was low] for quite some time. Had he had a bracelet his hypoglycemia could’ve been resolved much faster,” Kausel said.
Combining fitness trackers and medical identification information
You can also find Apple Watch bands identifying your condition if you don’t want to wear multiple items on your wrist. Some even feature QR codes to provide emergency responders with more information.
Samantha Puff, a 34-year-old teacher in Cincinnati who has lived with type 1 for more than 20 years, considered this option before deciding against it.
“I know it’s silly, but I feel like wearing multiple medical devices on my body works the same, if not better, than a medical alert bracelet,” she said. “I’ve thought about wearing [an alert bracelet] that attaches to my Apple Watch, but it makes me nervous having all that [personal] information on my watch band where students can see it. In my mind, I have so many people in my life, both personal and professional, that know I’m diabetic that it doesn’t worry me so much.”
Can diabetes medical devices stand in for medical jewelry?
While medical identification jewelry gives peace of mind to some with diabetes, for others, an insulin pump – a semi-permanent fixture displayed on the body – is enough of an indicator to anyone who would need to know their condition. Puff explained that she used to have a bracelet but was inconsistent in wearing it. Now she simply wears an insulin pump.
“I’ve never been a jewelry-wearing person, and to me, it was just something that was in the way. I had also always been really independent when it came to managing my diabetes (I was giving myself shots at 11 years old), and I think I was just too stubborn to wear it,” she said. “If anything happens, they’ll figure it out.”
Even if you wear a highly visible pump or glucose monitor that might make you think it would be obvious to others that you have diabetes, it’s helpful to let those around you know of your condition as a cautionary measure, just in case those around you are unaware of what the medical equipment is for.
The best options for attractive medical ID jewelry
Diabetes identification jewelry, and medical ID jewelry in general, has come a long way from the old clunky, chain link bracelets with a large red cross in the middle. Many options are customizable, aligned with current jewelry trends, and allow for plenty of engraving of information, including what type of diabetes one may have. Here are a few options to consider.
The Lauren behind the founder’s story is a then-13-year-old girl with diabetes who wasn’t feeling the old, outdated medical ID jewelry available at the time. She said “It’s ugly and draws attention to my illness,” according to their website. So, the company went on a mission to make other styles, and now have medical alert bracelets (like the one at right), necklaces, anklets, charms, bag tags, and kid-friendly silicone bracelets with all the necessary information.
Established from a father’s desire to protect his daughter from a fatal allergy in the 50’s, Medic Alert has expanded to include other conditions, such as diabetes. Now the non-profit organization offers Apple Watch tags that slide onto the band, stretchy bands for those who want to avoid metal, and more.
After surviving cancer, founder Abbe Sennett wanted to protect others in critical medical situations. Now, the company creates jewelry from unremovable options for Autism and Alzheimer’s to additional conditions including diabetes, heart disease, and more. They address the issue of needing waterproof jewelry that won’t turn colors or deteriorate in time, such as these bracelets.
Other options to consider include stainless steel bar necklaces, customized rings, and snap bracelets for young kids. If you aren’t sure what information is necessary to include on your jewelry, reach out to your medical professional to be sure.