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Diabetes: time for some myth-busting facts

By Babylon GP Dr Claudia Pastides

SATURDAY is World Diabetes Day and we wanted to share some diabetes myth-busting.

Myth: Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar. There are two types of diabetes, type 1 (an autoimmune disease, where the body’s cells that produce insulin are destroyed) and type 2 (a metabolic disease, where the body can’t process sugar properly). Eating too much sugar is not the cause of type 1 diabetes, and although eating a lot of unhealthy sugary food can contribute to someone developing type 2 diabetes – it is not the sole cause. Type 2 diabetes is often caused by a combination of genetics, diet, lifestyle and increasing age.

Myth: Type 2 diabetes is a milder form of diabetes. Both types of diabetes can cause serious health problems and complications if not managed well – using diet, lifestyle and medication, as well as support from a team of healthcare professionals.

Myth: All people with diabetes end up having to inject insulin. Although in type 1 diabetes people need insulin as their own cells can’t make it, in type 2 diabetes there are a variety of treatments available. Some people can manage their type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise, others also need to add tablets or non-insulin injections, and sometimes insulin is needed too. Diabetes is a long-term condition which can change over time. Fortunately we’ve got lots of treatment options available which we can tailor around every individual person.

Myth: You can catch diabetes from someone else. This is an old myth that still does the rounds now and again. Diabetes is not infectious. You cannot catch it by being close to someone or by sharing their belongings.

Myth: People with diabetes can’t do sports. Exercise is a very important part of managing diabetes for most people. Diabetes doesn’t have to stand in the way of exercise, even elite sports. There are a number of very successful professional sportspeople that are diabetic, for example Sir Steve Redgrave (olympic rower) and Melanie Stephenson (sprinter).

Myth: Diabetes causes you to go blind. Although diabetes can cause eye problems, including blindness, people with diabetes have very regular eye checks to keep watch over the health of their eyes and treat any potential problems early. Controlled blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure, combined with attending annual eye screening will help lower the risks of eye disease.

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