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Type 1 & Type 2 FAQs

Type 1 Diabetes FAQs

Do I need to take insulin for the rest of my life?
Yes. People with type 1 diabetes are not making enough insulin from their own bodies. Most people inject insulin at least four times a day. However, the insulin pump, or continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion (CSII), is slowly replacing frequent injections as a preferred delivery system. With the pump, a new catheter is inserted every few days under the skin, and insulin is continuously infused into the body. The pump is not the final word in insulin delivery systems, and there are clinical trials underway testing both a patch and a nasal spray as possible insulin delivery systems.

Will exercise help control my diabetes?
In general, exercise can be beneficial in the management of type 1 diabetes, in addition to taking insulin and eating a healthy diet. To exercise safely and reduce the risks, always consult with your doctor about exercise guidelines.

Can I stop taking insulin if I eliminate candy and cookies from my diet?

Even if you eliminate concentrated sources of carbohydrates (foods that turn into sugar in your bloodstream) like candy and cookies, you always need to take insulin when you have type 1 diabetes. Check with your doctor about any insulin dose adjustments that may be required if you change your diet.

Do I need to monitor my blood sugar even when I’m feeling fine?
Feeling fine is no guarantee that your blood sugar levels are in the target range. Remember, symptoms do not appear right away. Without regular blood sugar monitoring, serious damage can happen to your eyes, kidneys, feet – even your brain – without your knowing. If your sugar levels are out of line, consult your doctor.

I have type 1 diabetes. Are my children at risk?

Yes, but the risk is low. Although type 1 diabetes is a genetic disease, only about 4% to 5% of children of type 1 diabetics will develop diabetes. The risk varies with age, gender and other factors relating to the parent with diabetes. You can learn more about these odds by having your children undergo certain genetic tests.

Type 2 Diabetes FAQs

How do you treat type 2 diabetes?
When you have type 2 diabetes, you first need to eat a healthy diet, stay physically active and lose any extra weight. If these lifestyle changes cannot control your blood sugar, you also may need to take pills and other injected medication, including insulin.

Eating a healthy diet, being physically active, and losing any extra weight is the first line of therapy. “Diet and exercise“ is the foundation of all diabetes management because it makes your body’s cells respond better to insulin (in other words, it decreases insulin resistance) and lowers blood sugar levels.

If you cannot normalize or control your blood sugar with diet, weight loss and exercise, the next treatment phase is taking medicine either orally or by injection.

Diabetes pills work in different ways – some lower insulin resistance, others slow the digestion of food or increase insulin levels in the bloodstream. The non-insulin injected medications for type 2 diabetes have a complicated action but basically lower blood glucose after eating. Insulin therapy simply increases insulin circulating in the bloodstream.

Don’t be surprised if you have to use multiple medications to control your blood sugar. The use of multiple medications, also known as combination therapy, is common in the treatment of diabetes! If one medication is not enough, your medical provider may give you two or three or more different types of pills. Insulin or other injected medications also may be prescribed. Or, depending on your medical condition, you may be treated only with insulin or injected medication therapy.

Many people with type 2 diabetes have elevated blood fats (high triglycerides and cholesterol) and blood pressure, so you may be given medications for these problems as well.

Can type 2 diabetes go away? And if my blood sugar becomes normal, do I still have diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a genetic condition or pre-disposition that doesn’t change with treatment. But diabetes is defined as an elevated blood sugar level.

When your blood sugar is normal with no treatment, then the diabetes is considered to have gone away. However, even when blood sugar is controlled, because type 2 diabetes is a genetic condition, the predisposition for diabetes always exists. High blood sugar can come back.

If you have type 2 diabetes and your blood sugar is controlled during treatment (diet, exercise and medications), it means that the treatment plan is working. Your blood sugar levels have improved because of the treatment – NOT because your diabetes predisposition has gone away. You will need to continue your treatment; otherwise your blood sugar will go back up.

Will I need to take insulin if I have type 2 diabetes?
Maybe. Historically, 30% or more of people with type 2 diabetes required insulin therapy. However there are many new drugs available that may delay or prevent the need for insulin therapy. It is expected that fewer and fewer individuals will need insulin replacement to control their blood sugar.

As someone with type 2 diabetes, do I turn into a type 1 diabetic when I take insulin?
No. Taking insulin does not mean that you have type 1 diabetes. Your type of diabetes is determined by your genetics, not by the type of therapy.

If I have type 2 diabetes and take insulin, do I have to take it forever?
Not necessarily. If you can lose weight, change your diet, increase your activity level, and/or change your medications you may be able to reduce or stop insulin therapy. Under certain circumstances, you may only need insulin temporarily – such as during pregnancy, acute illness, after surgery or when treated with drugs that increase the body’s resistance to the action of insulin (such as prednisone or steroids). Often the insulin therapy can be stopped after the event or stress is over.

Will exercise help my diabetes?
Exercise is very beneficial in the management of type 2 diabetes. Always consult with your doctor about exercise guidelines, to exercise safely and reduce risks.

If I have type 2 diabetes can I stop taking diabetes medications if I eliminate candy and cookies from my diet?
If you eliminate concentrated sources of carbohydrates (foods that turn into sugar in your bloodstream) like candy and cookies, you may be able to reduce or eliminate the need for diabetes medications. Everyone with type 2 diabetes will benefit from an improved diet, but you may still need other interventions, such as increased physical activity, weight loss or medications to keep your blood sugar in the target range. Check with your doctor about any diabetes medication dose adjustments that may be required if you change your diet.

Do I need to monitor my blood sugar when I have type 2 diabetes?
You may feel fine, but that is no guarantee that your blood sugar levels are in the target range. Remember, diabetic complications do not appear right away. And complications may develop even when the blood sugar is only slightly elevated. Regular blood sugar monitoring can help you keep your blood sugar in control and prevent serious damage to your eyes, kidneys and nerves. If your sugar levels are out of line, consult your doctor.

Are my children at risk?
Yes. Type 2 diabetes is a genetic disease. The risk is highest when multiple family members have diabetes, and if the children also are overweight, sedentary and have the other risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Your child has a 10-15% chance of developing type 2 diabetes when you have type 2 diabetes. And if one identical twin has type 2 diabetes, there is a 75% likelihood of the other twin developing type 2 diabetes also.

Can type 2 diabetes be prevented?
Although we cannot change your genetic risk for developing type 2 diabetes, we do know that even modest exercise and weight loss can delay or prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. A landmark research study, conducted by the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) in the United States in the 1990s, showed that when people modified their risk factors for type 2 diabetes, they reduced their chance of developing the condition. Similar results have been shown in Finland.

In the DPP study, people with pre-diabetes were enrolled and assigned to 3 different treatments:

  • Intensive lifestyle changes – exercise (30 minutes, 5 days a week), a healthy diet, and weight loss (loss of 7% of initial weight)
  • The diabetes drug, Metformin
  • An inactive placebo disguised as Metformin

The group that made lifestyle changes was 58% less likely to develop diabetes compared to the placebo group. And the group that took Metformin was 31% less likely to develop diabetes compared to the placebo group. In other words – lifestyle changes and Metformin therapy can delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle changes (weight loss, healthy diet and activity) are the most effective intervention.

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