Frequently Asked Questions About Diabetes

Is diabetes preventable?
Researchers are looking for ways to prevent type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes. Exercising regularly and avoiding being overweight may help you avoid type 2 (noninsulin-dependent) diabetes altogether.

Can I get diabetes from eating too much sugar?
No. Diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, which produces insulin. Insulin helps your body use glucose (sugar) for energy.

If I have diabetes, must I have insulin injections for the rest of my life?
No. Usually only type 1 diabetes requires insulin injections, and only five to ten percent of all people with diabetes have type 1. People with type 2 can sometimes control their diabetes through diet and exercise. If insulin is needed, with proper diet, exercise and weight loss, insulin may be discontinued later on.

I have type 1 diabetes. If I have children, will they develop it?
Type 1 tends to run in families. However, most people who develop diabetes do not have a parent with diabetes. If a child has diabetes, his or her sibling has 20 times the risk of eventually developing it.

What puts me at risk for developing diabetes?
Doctors aren't sure what causes type 1 diabetes. But they have linked type 2 to being overweight, not getting enough exercise, and having a family history of diabetes. In addition, African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians are more likely than the general population to develop diabetes.

If you develop diabetes while you are pregnant, is it only temporary?
Gestational diabetes disappears once pregnancy is over in about 95% of all cases. However, more than half of all women who experience gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

Can diabetes cause vision loss?
Diabetes contributes to retinopathy, a disease of the retina, the light-sensing nerve layer at the back of the eye. The fragile blood vessels in the eye bleed and can block the retina, causing you to see hazy, darkened images. If left untreated, hemorrhages and scar tissue can pull the retina away from the back of the eye, potentially causing blindness.

Should people with diabetes have a special diet?
You should limit the amount of candy, pastries, and sugary drinks and desserts you eat. Even large amounts of fruit or juice can send blood glucose levels skyrocketing. Skipping a meal may cause your blood glucose to go too low - or the body may try to make up the missed meal and cause the blood glucose to go too high.

Up to 60 percent of your calories should come from complex carbohydrates, from foods such as whole-grain breads, vegetables, and dried beans and peas. A registered dietitian can help you plan a healthful diet.

What is hypoglycemia?
When your blood glucose levels are too low, you have hypoglycemia. This can occur when a person with diabetes takes too much insulin or oral medication, or doesn't eat properly, especially before exercise. You will become nervous, sweaty, shaky or weak; you may have a headache or blurred vision and be extremely hungry.

Sugar, juice or food with a high sugar content can help you recover from hypoglycemia. If not treated in time, hypoglycemia can cause you to slip into a coma or have a seizure.

What is hyperglycemia?
Hyperglycemia is characterized by high levels of glucose in the blood and urine. Hyperglycemia occurs when diabetes is untreated, insulin or pills are not taken, too much food is eaten, not enough activity is performed, or when the person is ill or stressed.

Symptoms may include frequent urination, hot, dry skin, intense thirst, nausea, moodiness, a feeling of being tired or having no energy all the time, or you may have no symptoms at all. It is important to follow your doctor's advice and have your blood glucose checked often.