Facts Versus Myths About Diabetes
With Type 1 diabetes (T1DM), the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The primary cause for type 2 diabetes (T2DM) is insulin resistance or ineffective utilization.
Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes symptoms can develop slowly. Some people have Type 2 diabetes for years and don’t know it. Symptoms include:
- Increased thirst and frequent urination. You may drink and urinate more than usual as a result of excess sugar building up in your bloodstream, causing fluid to be pulled from the tissues.
- Increased hunger. Without enough insulin to move sugar into your cells, your muscles and organs become depleted of energy. This triggers intense hunger.
- Weight loss. Despite eating more than usual to relieve hunger, you may lose weight. Without the ability to metabolize glucose, the body uses alternative fuels stored in muscle and fat. Calories are lost as excess glucose is released in the urine.
- Fatigue. When cells are deprived of sugar, you may become tired and irritable.
- Blurred vision. If your blood sugar is too high, fluid may be pulled from the lenses of your eyes. This may affect your ability to focus clearly.
- Slow-healing sores or frequent infections. Type 2 diabetes affects your ability to heal and resist infections.
- Areas of darkened skin. Some people with Type 2 diabetes have patches of dark, velvety skin in the folds and creases of their bodies—usually in the armpits and neck. This condition, called acanthosis nigricans, may be a sign of insulin resistance.
Myths vs Facts
With diet and exercise, some patients are able to wean themselves from insulin injections to oral medication. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and registered nurses in behalf of Mayo Clinic elucidate some common diabetes myths.
Myth: I have borderline diabetes or just a touch of diabetes.
Fact: Either you have it or you don’t. Two fasting blood sugar readings over 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or 7 millimoles per liter (mmol/L); a random blood glucose over 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L); or an A1C of 6.5 percent or higher are all considered diabetes.
Myth: Diabetes is not that serious of a disease.
Fact: Properly managed diabetes can prevent or delay diabetes complications. Neglect does otherwise.
Myth: Overweight or obese eventually develop type 2 diabetes.
Fact: Being overweight is a risk factor for developing this disease, but other factors such as family history, ethnicity and age also play a role.
Myth: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.
Fact: The answer is not so simple. Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is caused by genetics and unknown factors that trigger the onset of the disease. Type 2 diabetes (T2DM) is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors. The ADA recommends that people should limit their intake of sugar-sweetened beverages to help prevent diabetes.
Myth: If you have diabetes, you should only eat small amounts of starchy foods, such as bread, potatoes and pasta.
Fact: Starchy foods can be part of a healthy meal plan, but portion size is key. Whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice and starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, peas and corn can be included in a diabetic’s meals and snacks. Carbohydrates should be approximately 50 percent of your daily food intake. However, you may need more or less carbohydrates at meals, depending on how you manage your diabetes.
Myth: People with diabetes can’t eat sweets or chocolate.
Fact: If eaten as part of a healthy meal plan, or combined with exercise, sweets and desserts can be eaten by people with diabetes.
Myth: If you have type 2 diabetes and your doctor says you need to start using insulin, it means you're failing to take care of your diabetes properly.
Fact: For most people, type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease. When first diagnosed, many people with type 2 diabetes can keep blood glucose at a healthy level with oral medications. But over time, the body gradually produces less of its own insulin, and eventually oral medications may not be enough.
Type 2 diabetes is initially managed by increasing exercise and dietary modification. If blood glucose levels are not adequately lowered by these measures, medications such as metformin or insulin may be needed. In those on insulin, there is typically the requirement to routinely check blood sugar levels.
Can Diabetes Be Surgically Excised?
Does obesity cause diabetes? There appears to be a provocative and controversial cure. Almost a third of obese patients with Type 2 diabetes undergoing gastric bypass were effectively "cured" of their diabetes, being in complete remission for 6 years following the surgery. Patients report proper glucose levels within days of the procedure.
Stacy A. Brethauer, MD (Cleveland Clinic, Ohio) and colleagues say that the remission rates first seen in short-term studies of bariatric surgery, approaching 80%, are not sustained long term. The 2-year diabetes remission rate seen in the Swedish Obese Subjects (SOS) study of 72% declined to a 36% remission rate after 10 years. Considering all factors, the findings indicate that gastric bypass “should be considered as an earlier treatment option for patients with uncontrolled Type 2 diabetes.”
What do you think, are the odds favorable enough to consider removing most of your stomach, thereby severely restricting your food intake—requiring five extremely small meals daily in order to be free of insulin shots?
- Diabetes Myths. diabetes.org
- Top 10 diabetes myths. mayoclinic.com
- Diabetes mellitus type 2. wikipedia.org
- Gastric Bypass ‘Cures’ Diabetes in Almost a Third of Patients. medscape.com
- Type 2 diabetes: Symptoms. mayoclinic.com
- Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes: What’s the Difference? health.com
- Photo by Jim DeLillo licensed from iStock Photo, retouched by author.