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Diabetes Testing and Treatment

Sunday, November 19, 2017

November is National Diabetes Month.  During the month, we are looking at some of the myths surrounding this condition. This week we will look at some of the myths about testing and some of the treatment options available.

Myth #1:  Diabetes pills are oral insulin.

Reality:  Insulin does not come in pill form because it is a protein and the body starts to break down protein as soon as it is consumed.  That would destroy the insulin before it could get into the blood stream.  There are many types of insulin, some fast acting, some long acting and all available by injection or insulin pump with one new option available by inhalation.  There are a number of different categories of pills for diabetes; some help the body use insulin better, some help the body produce more insulin, some help the body excrete additional glucose and some slow down the amount of glucose produced by the liver.  

Myth #2:  If I need to go on insulin, I have failed and my diabetes is in its final stage.

Reality:  Diabetes is a chronic and progressive condition that affects the beta cells, those cells that make up a very small portion of the pancreas and produce insulin. The need to start insulin indicates the progressive nature of the condition.  The beta cells are no longer able to produce any or enough insulin to maintain a normal blood sugar reading.

Myth #3:  The more insulin I’m on, the worse my diabetes must be.

Reality:  The amount of insulin any one person requires is very unique to that individual and directly relates to his or her body’s ability to move glucose from the blood into the cells.  

Myth #4:  Once started on insulin, I will never be able to stop.

Reality:  This myth has some truth to it and it depends on the individual and why the insulin is being started.  There are certain medications that increase blood sugar beyond that which the body can handle.  In this case, insulin may only be needed for the duration of the medication. Similarly, surgery and pregnancy can both place extra stress on the body and result in high blood sugars that need to be managed with insulin for a period of time.  Insulin may also be needed because blood sugars have not responded to oral medications.  In this case, it is a positive thing that insulin is available as a treatment option.   

Myth #5:  Insulin causes weight gain.

Reality:  When there is a lot of sugar in the blood, the kidneys work to eliminate the excess in urine (not good for the kidneys), but also, these are calories not going to the cells.  You may hear of someone eating lots and still losing weight.  Once insulin is started, glucose is no longer eliminated and is moved into the cells for energy. This means the person retains the previously lost sugar or calories.  If the individual eats large quantities of food, they will gain weight.  If the diet is high in fat, the person will gain weight.  If the person is not exercising, they will gain weight. If the amount of insulin taken does not match the amount of food being consumed and the person takes too much insulin, the resulting low blood sugar will require the person to eat and take in more calories. Over time, this could contribute to weight gain. Insulin moves glucose into cells, but there is more to the weight gain story than just insulin.  

Myth #6:  I don’t need to test my blood sugar. I know what’s going on by the way I feel.

Reality:  This is a dangerous myth as the ability to sense low blood sugars may not appear until the blood sugar is at a very low and dangerous level. Also, high blood sugar may be hard to detect.  By testing your blood sugar, you can confirm your “feelings.”  To determine the best times to test, talk to your health care provider and diabetes educator for guidelines, times to test, and results analysis.

Myth #7:  I’m not on any medication so my diabetes is not bad.

Reality:  A diagnosis of diabetes should never be taken lightly.  Diabetes is chronic and progressive. Education and knowledge are crucial for the healthiest life possible.  

To learn more about diabetes, carbohydrate counting, and treatment options, contact Nancy M. Johnsen RN, CDE.  Nancy is a Certified Diabetes Educator, Community Health Education Coordinator, and Coordinator of the Diabetes Education Program at Noyes Health.  The program has locations in Geneseo, Dansville, Hornell and some local physician offices. Nancy can be reached at 585-335-4355.

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