Frequently Asked Questions

What is diabetes?

Many of the foods we eat turn into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ located near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugars to build up in your blood.

Uncontrolled diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and a need for lower-extremity amputations. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

People who think they might have diabetes must visit a physician for diagnosis. Diabetes can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. Symptoms may include:

    • Frequent urination.
    • Excessive thirst.
    • Extreme hunger.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Unexplained weight loss.
    • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet.
    • Very dry skin.
    • Feeling very tired much of the time.
    • Sores that are slow to heal.
    • More infections than usual.
    • Nausea, vomiting, or stomach pains (usually a symptom of type 1 diabetes).

What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is not able to make insulin (the hormone that transfers glucose from our food into our cells to create energy). Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in childhood, but can develop at any age. It is treated with insulin, which must be taken throughout an individual’s life. Diet and exercise are also an important part of management.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is able to make insulin, but the insulin is not released appropriately or is unable to be used by the body, resulting in high levels of glucose in the blood. Type 2 diabetes most often develops in adults. There are several treatment options, including oral and injectable medications and insulin. Lifestyle changes including diet modifications, exercise, and weight loss can have a significant impact on management of Type 2 diabetes.

What is the treatment for diabetes?

Management strategies should be planned along with a qualified health care team. The following information on treatments for diabetes is from the National Diabetes Fact Sheet by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

    • Diabetes knowledge, treatment, and prevention strategies advance daily. Treatment is aimed at keeping blood glucose at near-normal levels at all times. Training in self-management is integral to the treatment of diabetes. Treatment must be individualized and must address medical, psychosocial, and lifestyle issues.
    • Treatment of Type 1 diabetes: Lack of insulin production by the pancreas makes Type 1 diabetes more complex to control. Treatment requires a regimen that includes multiple daily insulin injections, a diet with accurate carbohydrate counting, planned physical activity, and blood glucose testing several times a day.
    • Treatment of Type 2 diabetes: Treatment typically includes diet control, exercise, blood glucose testing, and in some cases, oral medication, injectable incretin mimetics, and/or insulin. Approximately 40 percent of people with type 2 diabetes require insulin injections after many years of living with the disease.

Can diabetes be prevented?

A number of studies have shown that regular physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. It also appears to be associated with obesity. Researchers are making progress in identifying what may predispose some individuals to develop Type 1 diabetes, but prevention—and a cure—remains elusive.

Is there a cure for diabetes?

In response to the growing health burden of diabetes mellitus (diabetes), we have three choices: prevent diabetes, cure diabetes, and take better care of people with diabetes to prevent devastating complications. At this time, there is no cure for diabetes. However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is actively pursuing all three of the aforementioned approaches.

How can a diabetes education program help?

Starting a diabetes education program can help you learn to better manage your diabetes and improve your overall health. Education is a process, not an event—the average person benefits greatly from ongoing support and periodic updates to his or her knowledge and skills. The education team at DECM has experience with all aspects of diabetes management and can answer any question you may have.

How can I learn more?

DECM provides a nationally recognized diabetes education program. Learn more about our diabetes education programs.