Sweet illusions: Get the facts on diabetes

More than 29 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, but myths and misunderstandings surround the disease. This American Diabetes Month, here's what you need to know.

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  1. November is American Diabetes Month. It is a big deal because about 10 percent of people in the U.S. have diabetes, but 1 out of 4 don't know it. When diabetes goes undiagnosed, it can cause other serious health problems.
  2. Diabetes is a chronic disease caused when the body cannot produce or use insulin efficiently, making it harder to maintain appropriate glucose levels in the blood to produce energy for the body.
  3. There are different kinds of diabetes. People who have Type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin. They must monitor their blood glucose throughout the day, and treat high levels with insulin injections — though an inhalable insulin landed on the market recently. Most cases of diabetes are Type 2 — 90 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — in which the body does not use insulin effectively. This is known as insulin resistance.
  4. Gestational diabetes occurs when pregnant women have higher-than-normal levels of blood glucose. This type can increase risk of complications during pregnancy and increases women's risks for developing Type 2 diabetes later in life, according to CDC.
  5. Symptoms of diabetes include blurry vision, increased thirst and frequent urination.
  6. Not seeking diabetes care can lead to complications such as heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney failure, lower limb amputation and even death.
  7. Early detection and treatment can reduce complications from diabetes and prediabetes, which occurs when your body has blood glucose levels not high enough to indicate diabetes, but above average.
  8. Doctors can diagnose prediabetes and diabetes with a simple blood test. An A1C test indicates blood glucose averages over several months.
  9. Once diagnosed, steps can be taken to help manage diabetes. For Type 1, insulin injections, a meal plan with specific carbohydrate levels, exercise and frequent blood glucose monitoring can all help people manage their diabetes. Some people with Type 2 diabetes can manage their blood glucose levels with diet and exercise alone. Others may need medicine that helps increase insulin production, and some may also need insulin injections.
  10. More information on treatment is available online.
  11. There are many myths about diabetes and this month is a good time to set them straight.
  12. Myth #1: Diabetes is not a serious disease.

  13. Fact: Diabetes takes a severe toll on the physical, emotional and financial well-being of people. Information on the severity of diabetes is available from American Diabetes Association and CDC.
  14. Diabetes is a leading cause of death in the United States, according to CDC. In 2012 diabetes was the direct cause of 1.5 million deaths globally, not including the deaths with diabetes as an underlying cause, data from the World Health Organization show.
  15. The monetary costs are also high. Diabetes and its related complications cost America $245 billion in 2012, and its medical costs continue to be more than twice as high for people with diabetes compared to those without, according to ADA.
  16. Myth #2: Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar.

  17. Fact: The causes of diabetes are not that simple.
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