As someone who has recently been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few months learning about it. I think that even people who don’t have diabetes could benefit from learning more about it.
In honor of National Diabetes Awareness Month, here are seven common misunderstandings people might have about diabetes and the truth behind them.
1. You can get diabetes from eating too much sugar
I’m sure you’ve seen memes of super sugary looking cakes or ice cream with the caption “Diabetus” on social media . Even I have made some jokes about the cheesecakes at the Cheesecake Factory being so sugary they’d surely give me diabetes.
Now that I actually have diabetes, I’ve realized that statements like these can be hurtful because it implies that this disease is my fault, which is definitely not true.
2. Type 1 and Type 2 are basically the same
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are completely different. In fact, they’re so different that some people are trying to get them classified as different diseases entirely.
The main difference is with Type 1, your body doesn’t produce any insulin. Type 2, your body makes insulin, but it’s resistant to it.
Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, so the body destroys the insulin-making cells in the pancreas. Once that insulin’s gone from your body, you won’t get it back, so you’ll always need insulin injections to live.
The cause for developing Type 1 is not known.
Type 2 develops when the body doesn’t register the insulin that’s being made or it makes lower amounts of insulin. Eating well and exercising can increase insulin sensitivity, so some lifestyle changes and medications can help your body recognize its own insulin. People with Type 2 usually don’t need to do insulin injections. A lot of times, genetics and lifestyle can affect your likelihood of getting Type 2.
Also, there are more types of diabetes than just 1 and 2, such as Type 1.5, prediabetes, gestational diabetes, and more.
3. Eating certain foods can “reactivate the pancreas” and cure diabetes
I’ve had several people tell me that cinnamon will cure my diabetes and I hold back from laughing and try to educate them instead.
There is no food that can give you diabetes or cure it. Although there are amazing new devices such as continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps which can make life with diabetes a lot easier than in generations past, there is unfortunately no cure.
4. Insulin is affordable “just like water”
If you’re an American without health insurance, diabetes is a very expensive disease. Vials of insulin can cost hundreds of dollars despite them being relatively cheap to make. And that isn’t even counting costs for needles, syringes/pens, test strips, doctor’s appointments, and any medical devices (if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford them).
People have died because they couldn’t afford their proper dosage of insulin and had to ration what they had. It’s a health crisis that many organizations are working to fix.
5. People with diabetes can’t eat sweets
Although cutting back on the amount of carbohydrates they eat can definitely help keep blood sugars in check, as long as they calculate the amount of carbs they are eating and dose the proper amount of insulin for them, diabetics can really eat whatever they want!
6. Only children can get Type 1
Type 1 is sometimes referred to as “juvenile diabetes” because so many people get it as children, but many people get it later in life too. I was diagnosed at 22 and happen to know of people who didn’t get it until their 50s.
7. Diabetics are all obese and lazy
While healthy lifestyle choices can make diabetes management easier, it doesn’t determine whether or not you’ll get the disease.
Perfectly healthy people have gotten diabetes. It’s not anyone’s fault and we should commend them for getting the care they need instead of making any assumptions about their condition.
Diabetes can be hard to understand, but knowing these simple facts will make a world of a difference to someone in your life who is diabetic. I hope this has educated you about diabetes and that you’ll share what you’ve learned!