Aim: This paper is a report of a study examining the experience of adults with cystic fibrosis in adapting to the diagnosis of diabetes, a second chronic illness.
Background: Diabetes is a common complication of cystic fibrosis; the onset signifies the development of a second chronic illness. Both cystic fibrosis and diabetes are complex conditions, which require daily treatment schedules as part of their management. However, it is unclear how people already living with cystic fibrosis respond to the diagnosis of diabetes.
Method: A qualitative method was chosen to obtain an 'insider' experience of adjusting to a second chronic illness. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in 2004 with 22 adults with cystic fibrosis-related diabetes. The data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.
Findings: Four recurring themes were identified: emotional response to diagnosis of diabetes, looking for an understanding, learning to live with diabetes, and limiting the impact of diagnosis. Having cystic fibrosis appeared helpful in limiting the impact of the diagnosis of diabetes. Juggling conflicting dietary demands of cystic fibrosis and diabetes coupled with the lack of practical professional advice available was seen as one of the biggest challenges in adapting to diabetes.
Conclusion: Healthcare professionals need increased awareness of diabetes amongst adults with cystic fibrosis and provide adequate support and structured evidence-based education throughout the course of the illness, particularly in relation to diet. Nevertheless, patients' familiarity with regular daily routines and problem-solving attitudes, already developed in the context of cystic fibrosis, may be drawn on to limit the impact of diabetes.