Frequently Asked Questions


What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which the body is unable to properly use and store glucose (a form of sugar). Glucose accumulates in the bloodstream — causing blood glucose (sometimes referred to as blood sugar) to rise too high.

There are two major forms of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.

What are type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

  • Type 1 diabetes— the body completely stops producing any insulin, a hormone that enables the body to process the glucose found in the foods you eat. People who have type 1 diabetes must take daily insulin injections to survive. This form of diabetes usually develops in children or young adults, but can occur at any age.
  • Type 2 diabetes— results when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin and/or is unable to use insulin properly (insulin resistance). This form of diabetes usually occurs in people who are age 40 or older, overweight and have a family history of diabetes. Although today, it is increasingly occurring in younger people, particularly adolescents.

Who gets diabetes?

Diabetes can occur in anyone. However, if you have close relatives who have the disease, you are somewhat more likely to develop it. Other risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Physical inactivity
  • People who are ages 40 or older as well as overweight are more likely to develop diabetes, although the incidence of type 2 diabetes in adolescents is growing
  • Diabetes is more common among Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders
  • Developing gestational diabetes (during pregnancy increases the risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Can diabetes be prevented?

Studies show that lifestyle changes can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in adults who are at high risk of getting the disease. In general, modest weight loss (5-10 percent of body weight) and modest physical activity (30 minutes a day) are useful goals.

Can diabetes be cured?

Once diagnosed, diabetes is treated rather than cured. If you take care to manage your diabetes, you can maintain an excellent quality of life and prevent complications from the disease.

How is diabetes treated?

There are certain things that everyone who has diabetes, whether type 1 or type 2, needs to do to be healthy:

  • Follow a meal (eating) plan to make sure that you are getting the right nutrients.
  • Develop a physical activity plan that can help the body process insulin by converting glucose into energy for cells.
  • Visit your physician specialist (an endocrinologist or a diabetologist) at least once every six months and meet with other members of a diabetes treatment team (diabetes nurse educator and a dietitian) who will help you develop a meal plan.
  • Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor. Some people with type 2 diabetes take pills called "oral agents," which help their bodies produce more insulin or better use the insulin they are producing. Other people can manage type 2 diabetes through exercise and diet alone.
  • Have yearly eye exams by an ophthalmologist to make sure that any eye problems associated with diabetes are caught early and treated before they become serious.
  • Monitor your blood glucose daily to determine how well your meal plan, activity plan and medications are working to keep blood glucose levels in a normal range.

What other problems can diabetes cause?

Poorly managed diabetes can lead to a host of long-term complications.Among these are:

  • Heart attack
  • Strokes
  • Blindness
  • Kidney failure
  • Blood vessel disease

These types of complications may require an amputation, or cause nerve damage and impotence in men.

The good news: a nationwide study completed during a 10-year period showed that if people keep their blood glucose as close to normal as possible, they can reduce their risk of developing some of these complications by 50 percent or more.

Do I have to monitor my blood sugar levels?

Yes. You need to learn how to monitor your blood glucose. Daily testing helps determine if your meal plan, activity plan and medications are working to keep blood glucose levels in a normal range.

What can I eat until I see the dietician?

Try to eat five to six small meals a day instead of eating two or three large meals. Focus on how many total grams of carbohydrate you can eat throughout the day at each meal and snack, while keeping your blood glucose down. When you meet with your dietician, they will help you learn more about carbohydrate counting.


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