Debunking the Myths of Diabetes

Even though cases of diabetes are on the rise, the medical condition remains largely misunderstood. Some people suffering from diabetes can feel like the condition is a label and that they are unfairly judged compared to those without the condition.

Research has suggested people dealing with diabetes feel that others are blaming them, that they brought diabetes “upon themselves” with their lifestyle. They feel their work colleagues treat them differently, and that they are judged in social situations because of the food they eat and their need to take medication.

Today we’ll be dispelling some of the most common myths surrounding diabetes to help eliminate the stigma over diabetes, which currently affects over 3.7 million people in this country alone.

Diabetes Myth #1; Only Overweight People Get Diabetes

While it is true that being obese is one of the risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, obesity is NOT a direct cause. There are many overweight people who don’t develop the condition, just as there are some skinny people that do develop it. On top of this, type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with weight. It is an autoimmune condition that can affect anyone regardless of their lifestyle choices or physical activity levels.

Diabetes Myth #2; Sugar Causes Diabetes

It’s true that diabetes affects blood sugar levels, but the condition itself isn’t caused from eating sugar. Eating a lot of sugar definitely impacts health and overall well being, but desserts and sweets can be fine in moderation when included in a healthy eating plan. Moderation and exercise are key when it comes to sugar.

There’s also no such thing as a “diabetic diet”. It’s just a way to eat healthy and eat what one should be eating anyway. It involves eating lots of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, and proteins like lean meat and fish.

Outside of eating healthy diets, diabetics are required to regularly check their blood glucose/sugar levels with a glucometer, and have their blood sugar level checked with an HbA1c blood test around once every three months to ensure their body has a healthy balance of sugars

Diabetes Myth #3; Only Older People Get Diabetes

The reality is that diabetes can affect any age group. Type 1 diabetes most commonly affects children and adults under 30, but the latest research has suggested that over half of people that develop it are diagnosed when they are over 30 years old.

Type 2 diabetes typically develops in people over 45 years old, but it is slowly becoming increasingly common in younger age groups; affecting children, teenagers, and young adults.

Diabetes Myth #4; You can Tell if You’re Developing Diabetes

The reality is that you could live with the diabetes pre-cursor pre-diabetes for years without ever realising it. Over 7 million people in this country are pre-diabetic and have a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but the majority of them don’t know it. There are no obvious symptoms of developing diabetes. However, pre-diabetes should not be ignored or taken lightly. For example, a 2021 study suggests that pre-diabetes sufferers face a higher risk of severe heart problems and having a heart attack or stroke.

Getting diabetes diagnosed early is crucial to reducing the chances of developing diabetes and the damage associated with it. People could live with type 2 diabetes for up to seven years before they get diagnosed, which is more than long enough for serious health problems, including potentially fatal ones, to develop.

Diabetes Myth #5; Diabetes is Nothing to Worry About

Diabetes is always going to be a big deal. There’s absolutely no such thing as just a “mild case” of the condition. If you’ve got diabetes then you need to manage it each and every day to avoid the risk of serious heath problems such as cardiovascular/heart disease, kidney disease, eye health problems, and stroke. Diabetes can even lead to limb amputation in extreme cases.

Living with diabetes doesn’t mean that you have to refrain from doing the things you enjoy, but it does still mean having to take precautions. Having diabetes is emotionally demanding as well. It can have a major impact on mental health as well as physical health.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes and you need extra support, please get in touch with Diabetes UK through their helpline at 0345 123 2399.

Potential Complications of Diabetes

Left uncontrolled, diabetes can lead to a number of serious health complications. However, with proper management and care, many of these complications can be delayed or even prevented entirely.

Cardiovascular Disease

People with diabetes are at a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease, including coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke. High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and nerves that control heart function. Managing diabetes through medication, diet, exercise and routine testing can significantly reduce cardiovascular risks.

Kidney Disease

Uncontrolled high blood sugar can cause the small blood vessels in the kidneys to get damaged, leading to diabetic nephropathy. This is the main cause of kidney failure. Getting blood sugars under control can prevent or slow the progression of kidney disease. Kidney function should be monitored regularly through urine and blood tests.

Eye Complications

Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetes complication that affects eyes. High blood sugar levels can damage the small blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye leading to vision loss or blindness. Regular eye exams and early treatment can prevent vision loss.

Foot Damage

Nerve damage in the feet or poor circulation can increase the risk of various foot complications like ulcers, infections and in severe cases, amputation. Daily foot care and inspections along with proper footwear can prevent foot problems. Those with neuropathy may require prescription shoes to avoid foot injuries.

Skin Complications

Diabetes impacts many parts of the body including the skin. Some diabetes-related skin conditions include fungal infections, bacterial infections, itching, diabetic dermopathy and necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum which causes redness and pigmentation. Proper skin care and blood sugar control can prevent many skin issues.

Dementia Risk

Several studies show a link between type 2 diabetes and increased risk of vascular dementia caused by damage to blood vessels in the brain. Controlling diabetes can significantly reduce dementia risks. Other lifestyle factors like regular exercise, healthy diet and staying mentally and socially active also protect brain health.

Mental Health Effects

Living with diabetes can take a toll on mental health and be emotionally taxing. Anxiety, stress and depression are common in people with diabetes. Seeking counselling or joining diabetes support groups can help cope with the daily demands of managing diabetes. Healthy lifestyle habits and self-care help maintain mental wellbeing.

With knowledge and the right treatment, diabetes complications can be delayed or avoided. Work closely with your diabetes care team, monitor health regularly, and make diet and lifestyle adjustments as needed. Most importantly, keep blood sugars as close to target levels as possible at all times. Small daily self-care steps make a big difference in reducing diabetes health risks over time.

Photo Credit: “Das Wort Diabetes liegt auf Zucker auf r” (CC BY 2.0) by verchmarco

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