5 common diabetes myths busted
Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects the way the body makes energy from food. Normally, the human body produces a hormone called insulin that helps turn sugar from food into energy that the body can use or store. In people with diabetes, their bodies either don't produce enough insulin or don't use insulin properly. This can cause sugar levels in the blood to rise too high, which if left untreated can cause serious health problems over time—including heart disease, kidney disease and blindness.
November is National Diabetes Month, an opportunity to learn more about this increasingly common health condition—and to address any misinformation about diabetes you might hear on social media. Join us at SIU Medicine as we separate fact from fiction and bust some common diabetes myths!
Myth: If I have diabetes, I'll know it
Fact: according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 37 million people are living with diabetes in this country—but about 1 in 5 of these individuals don't even know they have it!
The only way to know for sure if you have diabetes is to talk to a . Diabetes can be diagnosed through a simple blood test that measures how much sugar is in your blood and/or what your blood sugar levels have been like on average over an extended period of time.
That said, high blood sugar can lead to a variety of signs and symptoms that are often overlooked or brushed off as something else. These include:
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Excessive thirst and/or hunger
- Unintended weight loss (losing weight without trying)
- Blurry vision
- Very dry skin
- Numbness in the hands and feet
- Excessive fatigue
- Slow-healing sores and wounds
- Frequent infections
Call your doctor if you believe you have any signs or symptoms of diabetes.
Myth: Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar
Fact: eating too much sugar does not cause diabetes. However, eating too much and becoming overweight or obese as a result may increase your risk for diabetes.
Other things that may increase your risk of diabetes include:
- Having other family members with diabetes (family history)
- Having high blood pressure
- Being from certain racial or ethnic backgrounds, such as African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian or Alaska Native
- Being physically inactive
Myth: Type 2 diabetes is less serious than type 1 diabetes
Fact: All types of diabetes can be potentially serious and harmful to health if left untreated. No matter what type of diabetes a person has, he or she should work closely with their medical team to manage their condition.
Do you know the different types of diabetes?
- In type 1 diabetes (formerly called juvenile diabetes), a person's body doesn't make enough insulin. Type 1 diabetes is most often diagnosed in childhood or young adulthood and usually has a rapid onset.
- In type 2 diabetes (formerly called adult-onset diabetes), a person's body makes insulin but isn't able to use it properly. Type 2 diabetes takes longer to develop and is usually diagnosed in adulthood, although today it’s becoming more prevalent in younger individuals and children. Most people living with diabetes (about 90 to 95 percent) have type 2 diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy and can cause harm to both the pregnant woman and her unborn baby.
- People with prediabetes have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be officially diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Myth: People with diabetes can't eat fruit
Fact: People with diabetes can enjoy a healthy balanced diet that includes a wide variety of foods, including fruit!
If you have diabetes, we recommend that you work closely with your medical team and ask for a referral to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to help you determine your optimal diet. Most people with diabetes do best by eating plenty of minimally processed foods, like whole grains, vegetables and fruit, lean protein and dairy.
Myth: Diabetes can be cured without medication
Fact: There is no "cure" for diabetes yet, and many people with diabetes—including all individuals with type 1 diabetes—will require lifelong use of medication to help them manage their condition and improve their health outcomes.
However, we do know that healthy lifestyle habits like proper diet, exercise, sleep and weight management make diabetes easier to control. In the case of type 2 diabetes, healthy lifestyle habits might even help prevent the disease! Plus, some individuals are able to eliminate or reduce the amount of diabetes medications they need by maintaining a healthy active lifestyle.
If you have diabetes, never change or stop your medications without direct supervision and guidance from a health care provider.
Living with diabetes?
Do you need help managing your diabetes or would like to be screened for this common health condition? Find a doctor at SIU Medicine who can give you the support and information you need to feel more confident about your health.