4 Myths About Diabetes

Myth #1 Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar. Diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar. There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas completely stops producing any insulin, a hormone that enables the body to use glucose (sugar) found in foods for energy. Environmental triggers appear to cause the autoimmune disorder in those individuals with a genetic predisposition to the disease, and it isn’t caused by eating too many sweets.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, results when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin and/or is unable to use insulin properly (this is also referred to as ‘insulin resistance’). This form of diabetes usually occurs in people who are over 40 years of age, overweight, and have a family history of diabetes, although today it is increasingly occurring in younger people.

Myth #2 Taking insulin means you’re a "bad diabetic." If you have type 1 diabetes, you must take insulin to survive once you’ve been diagnosed—there is no other treatment for the disease, and without insulin, people with type 1 will not survive.

People with type 2 diabetes who eventually decide to go on insulin often do so because it offers better control over blood glucose (sugar), which can ultimately mean fewer complications associated with excess glucose in the bloodstream. If you have type 2 diabetes, starting insulin treatment doesn’t mean you’ve done a bad job—in fact, it can signal that you’re aware of the importance of good glucose control, and realize that going on insulin will help you to continue to exert that control.

Myth #3 If you have diabetes, you can’t lead an active lifestyle. This myth is particularly problematic because many long-term studies have shown the positive impact regular physical activity has on lower glucose. Naturally, any physical fitness program needs to be approved by your diabetes care team prior to starting, but once you’ve settled into a program, being active and healthy with diabetes is absolutely possible.

If you have special concerns about your feet—for example, if you have charcot foot or other muscular/skeletal problems—talk to your doctor about what exercises to avoid so that you won’t aggravate pre-existing conditions. Starting a very gentle yoga practice is also good for those interested in starting a new, low-impact physical fitness routine. For more on Diabetes and Yoga, click here.

Myth #4 Injecting insulin is painful. If you take insulin via injection, it doesn’t have to hurt. Practice good injection technique and the experience will be virtually painless. Andrea Penney, RN, CDE, of the Joslin Diabetes Center , offers this advice: "After selecting and cleaning an injection site, firmly--but not tightly--pinch up an area about 2-3 inches wide. Inject at a ninety degree angle while the skin is pinched. Leave the needle in while you relax the pinch. Then count to five slowly (count to ten for the Lantus pen). Then remove the needle. Do not massage the area after the injection."