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Diabetes 101

Diabetes can't be cured, but it can be managed.

Questions

1. Can I get diabetes from eating too much sugar?

2. If I have diabetes, must I have insulin injections for the rest of my life?

3. What puts me at risk for developing diabetes?

4. If you develop diabetes while you are pregnant, is it only temporary?

5. What are the symptoms of diabetes?

6. Can diabetes cause vision loss?

7. Does diabetes increase the risk of other medical problems?

8. Is diabetes preventable?

9. Should people with diabetes follow a special diet?

10. Where can I go to learn more?

Answers

1. Can I get diabetes from eating too much sugar?

No. Diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, which produces a substance called insulin, which helps your body use glucose (sugar) for energy. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas makes no insulin. The reason for this is unknown. Type 2 diabetes (the most common form of the disease) develops when the body can't use insulin efficiently or the pancreas can't make enough insulin to meet the body's needs, or both.

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2. If I have diabetes, must I have insulin injections for the rest of my life?

Not necessarily. People with type 1 diabetes do need lifelong insulin treatment. People with type 2 may be able to control the disease with diet and exercise. If these measures aren't enough, diabetes pills may be prescribed. Over time, oral medications may not be enough, and some people with type 2 may need to use insulin to help manage their blood glucose levels.  

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3. What puts me at risk for developing diabetes?

Doctors aren't sure what causes type 1 diabetes. But they have linked type 2 to being overweight, not getting enough exercise and having a family history of diabetes. In addition, African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians are at higher risk for diabetes than other ethnic groups.

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4. If you develop diabetes while you are pregnant, is it only temporary?

Gestational diabetes usually resolves after the end of pregnancy. But women with a history of gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

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5. What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Symptoms of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes may include frequent urination, unusual thirst, feeling very hungry or tired, sores that heal slowly, unexplained weight loss and blurry vision. Symptoms of type 1 can start quickly, in a matter of weeks, while symptoms of type 2 may develop over several years. 

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6. Can diabetes cause vision loss?

Diabetes contributes to retinopathy, a disease of the retina, the light-sensing nerve layer at the back of the eye. The fragile blood vessels in the eye bleed and can block the retina, causing you to see hazy, darkened images. If left untreated, hemorrhages and scar tissue can pull the retina away from the back of the eye, potentially causing blindness.

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7. Does diabetes increase the risk of other medical problems?

Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, nervous system damage and dental disease, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

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8. Is diabetes preventable?

Researchers are looking for ways to prevent type 1 diabetes. Exercising regularly and avoiding being overweight may help you avoid type 2 diabetes.

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9. Should people with diabetes follow a special diet?

People with diabetes have the same nutrient needs as everyone else. The ADA describes these basic principles of healthy eating:

  • Eat plentiful amounts of a variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose whole grains (such as brown rice and whole-wheat pasta) over processed grains (such as white rice and white bread).
  • Include legumes (such as kidney beans, pinto beans and lentils) in your meals.
  • Eat fish two to three times a week.
  • Use liquid oils rather than solid fats for cooking.
  • Limit high-calorie snack foods and desserts.
  • Choose lean meats, nonfat dairy products and calorie-free beverages, such as water.

A registered dietitian can help you plan a healthful diet.

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10. Where can I go to learn more?

To learn more about diabetes, visit the Diabetes health topic center. You can also get more information at these websites:

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Reviewed 10/16/2020

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