FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease of the pancreas, an organ that is found behind the stomach.1,2 There are several different types of diabetes, but the two most common are type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

In people with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not make insulin, a hormone that is released after meals to help the body use or store blood glucose (a type of sugar) it gets from food. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin shots daily.3

In people with type 2 diabetes, the pancreas makes some insulin, but their bodies don’t respond very well to it. This is called insulin resistance. In many cases, people who have type 2 diabetes will eventually need medicine or insulin shots to help their body use blood glucose.2,3

It’s important to remember that, although diabetes is a lifelong disease, there are many things a person can do to stay healthy. It is important for people with diabetes to talk with their healthcare provider about what lifestyle changes and medicines might be best for them.

What causes diabetes?
No one knows for sure what causes diabetes. People who have a family history of the disease; are African American, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian American; are overweight; older; and/or take certain medicines may be at increased risk for developing diabetes. Being pregnant can also put extra stress on a woman’s body, which can lead to gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and usually goes away after childbirth. However, women who have a history of gestational diabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.1,2
How many people are diagnosed with diabetes?
Diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, is very common. In the United States, over 30 million people have diabetes—that’s almost 10% of the entire population.4  Experts think a lot more people—8.1 million—have diabetes but have not been diagnosed.
How is diabetes managed?
Proper diet, exercise, and different types of medicine are used to manage diabetes. Some people with diabetes are diagnosed before they need to take medicine; in those cases, it is very important for them to follow their healthcare provider’s instructions about diet and exercise.1,2  Their care plan will be individualized based on the person’s needs.2

People who have diabetes also need to measure the levels of glucose (sugar) in their blood and keep a log of their results. This log helps healthcare providers understand how well their body is responding to their diabetes care plan.1,3

Do all people with diabetes have to take insulin?
People with type 1 diabetes always need to take insulin because their pancreas does not make it. People with type 2 diabetes may not need to take insulin when they are first diagnosed, but many of them eventually need to take insulin or other medications that are given by injection as the disease progresses and becomes harder to manage. Some patients may need a combination of oral and injectable medicine. Every person’s care plan is different and reflects what each person’s own body needs. In cases where insulin is needed, people who were afraid to use it often say they feel better after they start taking it.5
What are the typical symptoms of diabetes?
People who have type 1 diabetes often have sudden, severe symptoms. These include increased thirst, dry mouth, a need to urinate often, unintended weight loss, feeling weak or tired, and blurred vision.

Many times, people with type 2 diabetes do not notice any symptoms. If they do, they might have blurred vision, itchy skin (especially in the vaginal or groin area), yeast infections, slow healing of sores and cuts, dry mouth, and a need to urinate more often.1,2

How does someone know that he or she has diabetes?
The only way to know for certain if a person has diabetes is for a healthcare provider to perform blood and urine tests. Usually, when two blood tests show a person has a blood sugar level of 126 mg/dL or greater after fasting for at least 8 hours, that person is diagnosed with diabetes.1,2
What is A1c?
A1c is the abbreviation that is used for hemoglobin A1c, a measure of blood glucose that shows the average blood glucose for the past 60–90 days. A1c is also used to diagnose diabetes. An A1c of 6.5% or higher is an indication of diabetes.5
Is there a cure for diabetes?
Right now, there is no cure for diabetes, but most people can manage and control it. It’s very important for people with diabetes to follow their care plan. If diabetes is not managed well, it can lead to serious complications, like heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, eye damage and loss of sight, gum disease, serious infections in feet that can sometimes require amputation, and nerve damage that can result in pain or loss of sensation. People with diabetes can often avoid these complications by following their care plan.1,2
How do people with diabetes know what their blood sugar levels should be?
This is different for each person and can change throughout the day. The American Diabetes Association recommends that most people with diabetes have a fasting or before-meals blood glucose (blood sugar) goal of 70–130 mg/dL. About an hour or two after eating, a blood sugar reading at or under 180 mg/dL is recommended.3 Healthcare providers give patients a target range so that they can keep their blood sugar within these levels. It’s important for blood sugar not to be too low or too high. 1 If blood sugar is less than 70 mg/dl or higher than 180 mg/dL for 3 days in a row, patients should call their healthcare provider.2
Why is it so important for people with type 2 diabetes to lose weight?
Managing weight is an important part of managing type 2 diabetes. When a person loses weight, his or her body is better able to use the insulin it makes. Even a modest weight loss (10–20 lbs.) can improve blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, which can reduce the need for medications or lower the dosage a person needs.1,2

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