Let’s Talk About Diabetes
Everything you ever wanted to know (and then some) on the causes, symptoms, and treatments of this chronic condition, and how to keep living your life, disease be damned.
Whether you’ve just been diagnosed or think you could have diabetes, you’re probably nervous, confused, and maybe even a little scared. That’s normal, and everyone featured on HealthCentral with a chronic illness felt just like you do now. But we—and they—are here for you. On this page alone, you’ll discover not only the realities and challenges of the condition, but also the best treatments, helpful lifestyle changes, wisdom from people who have been where you are now, and all the critical information to help you not just manage—but thrive. We’re sure you’ve got a lot of questions…and we’re here to answer them.
What Is Diabetes, Anyway?
Everyone’s heard of diabetes. It’s one of the most common chronic diseases in the world and rates are still on the rise. Yet most people don’t fully understand what causes it or how it affects everyday life. Many think that because the disorder is so widespread, it isn’t serious. But if left untreated, diabetes can lead to heart disease, vision loss, and even limb amputation.
At its most basic, diabetes mellitus (the official name) is a group of disorders that cause people to have higher-than-normal levels of sugar—or, glucose—in their blood. Glucose comes from the protein, carbohydrates, and fats that you eat and drink, as well your liver, which makes and stores the substance.
If everything is going according to plan, your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin that helps move glucose from the bloodstream into some of the cells of your body to be used for energy. But if your body is resistant to insulin, or doesn’t make enough of it, the glucose gets stuck hanging out in your blood. That’s when your doc will tell you that you have “high blood sugar.” As time goes on, the extra sugar in your blood causes inflammation and other major health troubles.
About 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, but nearly one quarter of them don’t know it. Let’s take a closer look.
Most Common Types of Diabetes
There are several different types of diabetes and each has its own causes. It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis for which form of the disease you have because treatment will differ depending on type. Here are the basics you should know:
If someone’s blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes, that’s considered prediabetes. That means an A1C blood test result between 5.7% and 6.4%. More than one in three adults in the United States has prediabetes, and the majority of them don’t know it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
That’s a problem because people with prediabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2. Luckily, prediabetes can be reversed: Exercise and diet changes are often prescribed to lower blood sugar and reduce the risk. In some cases, a doctor may also prescribe metformin, a blood-sugar lowering drug to help prevent type 2.
You’re at risk of prediabetes if you:
- Have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
- Have ever had gestational diabetes
- Are 45 or older
- Are overweight
- Aren’t physically active at least three times per week
Type 1 Diabetes
Also called “juvenile” diabetes because it’s often diagnosed in childhood, type 1 diabetes is mostly an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system attacks and destroys insulin-making cells in the pancreas. Because of this, your body no longer produces its own insulin, so you need insulin injections every day. It’s thought that a combination of genetics and environmental factors may cause the disease to develop in the first place.
Most people with type 1 diabetes are diagnosed during childhood or young adulthood, but a small number of people may not develop the disease until their 30s, 40s, or even 50s.
Type 1 Diabetes Complications
Having type 1 diabetes also puts you at risk for other health problems, especially if left untreated. Some possible complications include:
- Cardiovascular disease: People with diabetes are at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
- Diabetic neuropathy: Over time, having high blood sugar can lead to nerve damage, called diabetic neuropathy. This manifests in symptoms of tingling, pain, numbness, or burning and affects about one-half of people with diabetes. Additionally, nerve damage that occurs in the feet can lead to poor blood flow that can result in increased risk of foot problems like major infections from cuts and blisters.
- Kidney disease (nephropathy): Having diabetes makes you more likely to develop chronic kidney disease. That’s because diabetes can damage the filtering system in your kidneys that removes waste from your blood.
- Eye problems: Your eyes are also at increased risk of health problems with diabetes, such as glaucoma and cataracts. You also may experience damage to the blood vessels in the part of your eye called the retina, a condition known as diabetic retinopathy, which can result in loss of sight.
- Skin problems: People with diabetes are more prone to skin infections and other disorders.
- Pregnancy complications: Type 1 diabetes can lead to problems for you and your baby if you are pregnant. For example, your risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and birth defects are higher if your diabetes is unmanaged in pregnancy.
Type 2 Diabetes
People with type 2 diabetes do produce their own insulin, but their bodies don’t use it very well. They are insulin-resistant.
Type 2, also called “adult-onset”, diabetes is the most common form of the disease. Between 90% and 95% percent of all people with diabetes have type 2. It usually develops in middle age but is sometimes seen in older kids or teens. Most people with type 2 don’t need to take insulin, but they may need other medications to help bring down blood sugar.
Type 2 Diabetes Complications
It’s important to treat type 2 diabetes because, like type 1, it can wreak havoc on your body in other ways. People with type 2 diabetes experience the same long-term complications of diabetes as type 1 (see above list), including diabetic neuropathy, skin problems, kidney disease, eye problems, cardiovascular disease and more.
Gestational diabetes refers to temporary high blood sugar that happens only in pregnancy. Doctors suspect that it’s related to hormonal changes that happen during this time. Every year, about 2% to 10% of pregnant women in the United States will experience gestational diabetes, according to the CDC.
Most pregnant women are screened for gestational diabetes during their second trimester with a glucose tolerance test, which involves drinking a glucose-containing beverage on an empty stomach and then having blood drawn to check sugar levels.
Gestational diabetes is usually treated with exercise and diet changes (such as eating less starch and more veggies, fruits, and protein). Some women may need insulin injections, too.
Most of the time, blood sugar levels return to normal once the baby is born; but if you have gestational diabetes during pregnancy, you are also at higher-than-average risk for developing type 2 later in life. In fact, about 50% of people with gestational diabetes end up getting type 2.
Gestational diabetes also puts your baby at risk of health problems. For example, babies with mothers who have gestational diabetes have a higher chance of low blood sugar, preterm birth (which can lead to breathing problems and other issues), being born greater than nine pounds (which can lead to difficult delivery or C-section), and getting type 2 diabetes later in life.
Other Types of Diabetes
Though rare, these types of diabetes can cause serious health issues if left untreated:
- Monogenic diabetes: Accounting for 1% to 5% of all cases, this rare type of diabetes is caused by a mutation in a single gene. In most cases, the disease is due to a person’s pancreas not being able to make enough insulin; the condition is usually found in kids. If untreated, monogenic diabetes can lead to damage of the blood vessels in your eyes and kidneys.
- Secondary diabetes: Sometimes, diabetes is a side-effect of another disease, such as Cushing’s syndrome and cystic fibrosis (more on this below). Certain medications, including niacin, diuretics, HIV medicines, and anti-seizure drugs, can also lead to high blood sugar. These forms of diabetes have similar risk of complications to other forms of diabetes.
- Cystic fibrosis-related diabetes: If you have cystic fibrosis, you are at risk of this type of diabetes. Basically, the scarring of the pancreas that occurs in cystic fibrosis can make it tough for your pancreas to make the insulin you need. Cystic fibrosis-related diabetes has some features of type 1 diabetes and some features of type 2 diabetes.
What Causes Diabetes in the First Place?
The causes of diabetes differ depending on what type you have. No matter what type it is, though, issues with insulin are the core of the disease. With type 1 diabetes, it’s believed that a combination of environmental factors (like viruses) and your genes trigger the body to start attacking insulin-producing cells. With type 2, lifestyle factors and genes contribute to insulin problems. Typically, this starts with insulin resistance, in which your body simply doesn’t use insulin as well as it should.
Causes of Type 1
Type 1 diabetes is mostly an autoimmune disorder. In this case, your immune system attacks your body in the same way it might attack invaders like bacteria or viruses, destroying certain cells in your pancreas in a misguided attempt to protect the body. These cells, called beta cells, are the ones that produce insulin. When your body attacks and destroys them, you can no longer make your own insulin.
Doctors believe that type 1 diabetes may be caused by a combination of genes and environmental factors. Type 1 diabetes is treatable with daily insulin injections but isn’t curable; and lifestyle changes like diet and exercise won’t reverse it.
Causes of Type 2
Type 2 diabetes is usually caused by a combination of factors. It tends to run in families, and certain genes make you more likely to develop it. It’s also more common in some ethnic groups, including Native Americans, African Americans, Pacific Islanders, Asians, and Latinos.
How you eat and how active you are also important. Carrying extra body fat, especially in your belly, can contribute to insulin resistance, a situation where your pancreas makes plenty of insulin, but doesn’t use it well, so sugar builds up in your blood rather than going into your cells for energy. Insulin resistance is a major cause of type 2 diabetes.
Sometimes, type 2 diabetes is caused by an underactive pancreas and your body doesn’t make enough insulin.
Causes of Gestational Diabetes
Genetics and hormonal changes during pregnancy are the culprits of this type. You’re at increased risk of getting this form of diabetes if you:
- Have had it in a past pregnancy
- If you are overweight prior to pregnancy
- Have polycystic ovary syndrome
- Have given birth to a baby over nine pounds
- Have a family history of type 2 diabetes
All women become insulin-resistant late in pregnancy, thanks to hormones released mostly by the placenta. Most of the time, the pancreas amps up production of insulin to make up the difference, but in cases where it can’t keep up, blood sugar levels rise and gestational diabetes develops.
What Are the Risk Factors for Diabetes?
Now that we know what causes diabetes to develop in the first place, you’re likely wondering whether you are at risk of developing this particular condition. It’s true that there are certain factors that can make you more likely to get diabetes. Knowing your risk factors arms you with knowledge—knowledge you can use to take steps to reduce that risk and stay as healthy as possible. Here’s what you need to know.
Type 1 Diabetes Risk Factors
Compared with type 2 diabetes, risk factors for type 1 diabetes are a little less-understood. That said, a few of the main risk factors are clear:
- Family history. If your parent or sibling has type 1 diabetes, you’re also more likely to develop the condition.
- Younger age. Children, teens, and young adults are the most likely to get type 1 diabetes (that’s why it’s sometimes called “juvenile diabetes”), although it’s possible to get it at any age
- Race. In the United States, you’re more likely to develop type 1 if you are white compared with Black and Latinx Americans.
Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors
Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include:
- Prediabetes. Having prediabetes greatly raises your chances of going on to develop full-blown type 2.
- Being overweight. Having excess weight has been linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Being 45 or older. Unlike type 1, older folks are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
- Family history. Having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes makes you more likely to get the disease.
- History of gestational diabetes. If you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes during a pregnancy or had a baby over nine pounds in weight, you’re at higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Race. Black Americans, Latinx Americans, American Indians, and Alaska Natives are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
Do I Have the Symptoms of Diabetes?
A tricky truth about this disease: Sometimes, there are no symptoms or symptoms are so mild that they’re easy to miss. That’s why nearly all pregnant women are screened for gestational diabetes, and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for adults over 40 who have risk factors such as abdominal obesity.
Other times, symptoms are sudden and clear. Here’s what you need to know.
First Signs of Diabetes
Having any of the following signs does not necessarily mean you have diabetes. Instead, consider them a signal to call your doctor:
- Major thirst: When your blood has too much sugar in it, your body pulls water from surrounding tissues to try to dilute it. That leaves you dehydrated and thirsty. Some diabetics feel like no matter how much they drink, they can’t quench their thirst.
- A lot of pee: When there’s too much sugar in the blood, your kidneys try and filter it out. They dump it into your urine, creating more pee. In more advanced stages of the disease, damaged nerves around the bladder may cause some people to feel the urge to pee frequently, even if little or nothing comes out. You also have a higher risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs).
- Blurry vision: High blood sugar can lead to a leaking of fluids into your eye, causing the lens to swell. That leads to trouble focusing.
- The munchies: If you’re hungry all the time, even after a good meal, it could be a sign that your muscles and other tissues aren’t getting the energy—i.e. glucose—they need from the food you’re eating, because it’s hung up in your bloodstream. Your muscles tell your brain that they’re starving (even though you ate plenty), making you hungry again and continuing the cycle.
- Increase in infections: Type 2 diabetes makes it harder for your immune system to fight off infections, including yeast infections or UTIs. It might also take longer for cuts to heal, because extra glucose prevents white blood cells from doing their repair work.
- Weight loss: Losing weight without changing your diet could be a sign of type 1 diabetes. If your body can’t get the glucose it needs from food, it will start to break down its own fat, muscles, and other tissues for fuel, leading to weight loss.
- Fatigue: You may feel exhausted and weak because your brain, muscles, and other body systems aren’t getting the energy they need to work properly. If you’re dehydrated, that can make you tired, too.
Type 1 Diabetes vs. Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms
When you have type 1 diabetes, your symptoms may start fast, taking only a couple of weeks to ramp up. In contrast, type 2 diabetes develops much more gradually and can take several years. In fact, symptoms may be so mild at first that you don’t even realize anything is off. That’s why it’s important to get regular checkups at your doctor—they may be able to catch changes early with blood tests and help prevent type 2 from getting worse.
Diabetes Symptoms in Women
Diabetes may affect you differently based on your sex. Risks tend to be greater and complications more severe in women. For example, women with diabetes have double the increased heart disease risk of men, according to the CDC. Women also have a greater risk of complications from diabetes like blindness, kidney disease, and even depression.
Women with diabetes also are at an increased risk of vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections. Keeping your blood sugar levels under control can help reduce this risk.
On top of all that, those who menstruate may find their blood sugar levels are trickier to predict before and after your period thanks to changing hormones. Those hormone changes can cause difficulties in your sex life, too—talk with your doctor if you’re concerned about painful sex or low libido.
Finally, diabetes can make it harder to get pregnant and raises your risk of pregnancy complications. Getting your diabetes under control before getting pregnant is ideal, along with regular checkups throughout pregnancy.
Diabetes Symptoms in Men
All that said, men aren’t off the hook when it comes to diabetes. Not only are men more likely to get type 2 diabetes at a lower weight than women are, but men are actually more likely to have undiagnosed diabetes. So don’t put off those regular checkups with your doctor, and make an appointment if you notice any strange new symptoms.
Your diabetes also triples your risk of getting erectile dysfunction (ED). Thankfully, there are tons of treatments available to help with this. Due to nerve damage with diabetes, you also may experience overactive bladder or incontinence, UTIs, or a condition called retrograde ejaculation, which is when semen is released into your bladder.
Diabetic Ketoacidosis and Diabetic Coma
In severe cases, your diabetes—in particular, type 1 diabetes—may lead you to develop a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). This can happen if your body doesn’t get enough glucose, so your body starts burning fat to get the energy it needs. This process produces chemicals called ketones. If ketones build up in the blood, it makes your blood more acidic, and high levels can actually poison you.
The earliest warning signs of DKA include:
- Having to pee frequently
- Feeling very thirsty or having dry mouth
- Having high blood glucose levels
- Having high levels of ketones in the urine
Full-blown DKA results in the following symptoms:
- Feeling tired all the time
- Dry, flushed skin
- Nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain
- Breath that smells fruity
- Confusion or difficulty focusing
- Difficulty breathing
If you think you may have DKA, it’s important to get medical attention right away. DKA can lead to diabetic coma, which is when you pass out for a long time, and in the most severe cases, death.
DKA can affect people with any type of diabetes, but it’s rare in type 2.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Diabetes?
Getting diagnosed with diabetes involves blood tests and potentially additional testing to figure out which type you have. Correct diagnosis is important since treatment differs depending on type.
What to Expect at the Doctor’s Office
It’s normal to be nervous as you head to your doctor’s appointment to explore a potential diagnosis of diabetes. Knowing what you may expect during your appointment can help calm the nerves. Your doctor will likely do a physical exam and ask you questions about your symptoms and family history. Typically, the first course of action to test for diabetes is to do a blood test.
Blood Tests for Diabetes
The first step in getting a diabetes diagnosis is a blood test. There are several possible types.
A1C (or Glycated Hemoglobin) Test
This common test measures what percentage of your red blood cells have been coated with glucose over the past two to three months. The higher your blood sugar, the higher your score. An A1C result below 5.7 is considered normal; 5.7 to 6.4 is prediabetic; 6.5 or above suggests diabetes.
Fasting Blood Sugar Test
Blood will be drawn first thing in the morning before you eat or drink anything other than water. A result under 100 milligrams per deciliter is normal; 100 to 125 mg/dL is prediabetic; 126 mg/dL or above indicates diabetes. Your doctor will likely want to do the test twice before diagnosing you.
Glucose Tolerance Test
After getting your blood drawn on an empty stomach, you’ll drink a glucose drink, then have blood drawn again after one or two hours. If your blood sugar is under 140 mg/dL two hours after downing the sugar drink, that’s normal; 140 to 199 is prediabetic; 200 md/dL or over indicates diabetes.
Random Blood Sugar Test
Blood is drawn at any time of day, whether you’ve eaten recently or not. A result of 200 mg/dL means you may have diabetes.
To help differentiate between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, your doctor may also draw blood for an “autoantibody” test, to see if your immune system is attacking your pancreas. People with type 1 often test positive for several specific autoantibodies, while those with type 2 (or the rare monogenic diabetes) won’t.
Urine Test for Diabetes
If your doctor suspects that you have type 1 diabetes, she may want to test your urine for ketones, chemicals your body produces when it breaks down fat for energy.
The test can be done at home or in a lab or doctor’s office by peeing into a specimen cup. Extremely high levels of ketones are a sign of ketoacidosis, a potentially fatal complication of diabetes that requires emergency treatment.
What Is the Best Treatment for Diabetes?
Whatever your path of treatment, most likely you’ll start by checking your glucose every day, or even several times per day, in order to make decisions about insulin dosages, food, and exercise. This is a whole lifestyle so we’ll break it down in detail after we talk about other treatments. Beyond self-monitoring, here are a few types of treatments your doctor will consider, based on your diabetes type:
Type 1 Diabetes Treatments
The main treatment for type 1 diabetes is insulin. Here’s what you need to know.
All people with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin daily. There are a couple of different ways insulin can be delivered to the body:
- Injection: This is the most common way to take insulin. To inject the drug, you will use a syringe or “pen,” usually in your belly, upper arm, thigh, or butt.
- Insulin pump: People who need multiple injections per day or are at high risk of ketoacidosis may prefer an insulin pump, which automatically delivers insulin throughout the day through a tiny catheter that’s worn on your body.
- Insulin inhaler: Some adults with type 1 or 2 diabetes can also use inhaled insulin, a powder you breathe into your lungs through an inhaler
The Dangers of Too Much Insulin
Accidentally getting too much insulin is dangerous—it can cause your blood sugar to plummet and lead to hypoglycemia. This can happen if you accidentally inject the wrong dose at the wrong time, or inject your insulin but then skip your scheduled meal afterward. If you’ve overdosed on insulin, it’s important to seek medical care right away. In the most severe cases, an insulin overdose can lead to seizures or coma.
Insulin Questions for Your Doctor
If your doctor prescribes you insulin for your diabetes, it can feel overwhelming. It’s important to ask questions so you understand the ins and outs of your treatment. Some questions you may want to ask your doctor include:
- What are the details of my prescription? (Name, strength of dose, etc.)
- How do I safely store my insulin?
- How does insulin work?
- When should I first start taking it?
- How do I take my insulin? Do I need any other supplies?
- How long does it take to feel the effects?
- At what times should I take my insulin? How do I need to plan my meals/snacks around it?
- Are there any foods or drinks (including alcohol) I can’t have while on this medication?
- What happens if I forget to take it?
- What should I do if my blood sugar levels are too high or too low?
- What side effects might I experience?
Type 2 Diabetes Treatments
For type 2 diabetes, there are several treatment options. They may be used alone or in combination with each other.
Some people with type 2 diabetes may need to take insulin as well. While you may not need to take it regularly, there may be special cases where you do need insulin, such as if you are pregnant.
Several pills (or liquids), used in combination with each other or with insulin, can help lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. These are some of the common meds:
- Metformin: Sold under brands names Glucophage, Glumetza, Fortamet, and Riomet, metformin is a drug that slows the breakdown of carbohydrates you eat into sugar and reduces how much glucose your liver produces. It’s usually the first drug prescribed for type 2 diabetes. Potential side effects include B-12 deficiency, for which you can take supplements, along with bloating, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
- Thiazolidinediones: Actos (rosiglitazone) and Avandia (pioglitazone) are drugs that reduce circulating fat concentrations and improve sensitivity to insulin. That said, they do come with potential side effects, such as a risk of bone fractures, weight gain, congestive heart failure, bladder cancer (pioglitazone), and high cholesterol (rosiglitazone).
- Sulfonylureas: Amaryl (glimepiride), Glucotrol (glipizide) and glyburide—brand names include DiaBeta, Glynase, and Micronase—work by triggering the pancreas to produce more insulin and are effective in controlling blood glucose and lowering A1C levels. Side effects to watch out for on these meds include weight gain and, if you skip a meal, low blood sugar.
- Meglitinide: Prandin (repaglinide) and Starlix (nateglinide) also work by causing the pancreas to release more insulin, but they are a shorter-term drug used mainly to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level during mealtimes. Potential side effects are similar to those of sulfonylureas.
- DPP-4 Inhibitors: Januvia (Sitagliptin), Onglyza (saxagliptin), and Tradjenta (linagliptin) are DPP-4 inhibitors that also trigger the pancreas to produce more insulin. That said, they tend to only have a modest effect on blood-sugar levels, and can come with side effects like joint pain and risk of pancreatitis.
- SGLT2 inhibitors: Farxiga (dapagliflozin), Invokana (canagliflozin), and Jardiance (empagliflozi) boost the amount of sugar the kidneys can remove from your blood. Another plus: They may help lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. Again, however, there are potential side effects, including risk of gangrene, risk of amputation (canagliflozin), risk of bone fractures (canagliflozin), vaginal yeast infections, low blood pressure, urinary tract infections, and high cholesterol.
- Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors: Glyset (miglitol) and Orecose (acarbose) slow the digestion and breakdown of starches into glucose and regulate how much glucose is absorbed by the small intestine. They generally don’t lead to weight loss or gain, but they can have digestive side effects too, like gas, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and bloating.
- GLP-1 receptor agonists: Victoza (liraglutide), Trulicity (dulaglutide), and Ozempic (semaglutide) are examples of GLP-1 receptor agonist drugs. These medications work by helping your body use its insulin more efficiently, in turn lowering your blood sugar. Some of these may lead to weight loss and decrease your risk of heart disease if you are at high risk. Possible side effects you may experience include nausea and vomiting and, rarely, pancreatitis.
Diet and Exercise
Eating well and exercising will help your health no matter what type of diabetes you have. That said, type 1 diabetes can’t be treated or cured through lifestyle changes. No matter how well you eat, you can’t make your pancreas be able to produce insulin again.
Diet can be used to help treat type 2 and gestational diabetes, though. Plus, regular exercise can also reduce insulin resistance and improve the way your body uses insulin, keeping type 2 diabetes in check.
Here are some key diet and exercise tips to help manage your diabetes:
- Quit the sugary drinks. One of the most important diet changes someone with type 2 can make is to reduce or cut out sugary drinks like soda and juices that may hike up blood sugar.
- Vary your food groups. It’s important to eat a range of healthy foods to get you the nutrients you need. For example, prioritize lean protein, low-starch vegetables, heart-healthy fats, and whole grains.
- Try a meal plan. Some people with diabetes may work with their doctor or a dietitian to come up with a personalized meal plan. This can help you make sure you’re staying on target with the foods you need to help balance your blood sugar. As part of your meal planning, you also may need to count your carbs since they affect your blood glucose more than other foods.
- Get moving. Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise on at least five days per week is ideal to help with your diabetes. A mix of aerobic and strength-training exercises is the goal. Find an activity you enjoy, like riding your bike or hiking. Good old walking does the trick, too!
- Stay safe while working out. Getting physical activity is a must with diabetes, but make sure you know the signs of low blood sugar so you can stop and stay safe—confusion, weakness, dizziness, and profuse sweating. And since people with diabetes are at increased risk of foot problems, make sure you’re wearing supportive shoes during exercise.
Gestational Diabetes Treatments
Like with type 2 diabetes, diet and exercise are often the first-line treatments for gestational diabetes. If that isn’t enough to help get your blood sugar to a healthy level, you may be prescribed diabetes medications like insulin or metformin while you are pregnant.
Your Diabetes Care Team
Diabetes may be diagnosed by your primary-care provider or a doctor who specializes in hormonal disorders like diabetes called an endocrinologist. After your diagnosis, you may work with a variety of other healthcare professionals to help manage different aspects of your condition:
- Ophthalmologist or optometrist. These are eye doctors who can help you diagnose and manage diabetes-related eye conditions.
- Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Dietitians are nutrition experts who can help you learn about the best ways to plan meals to better manage your diabetes.
- Podiatrist. Podiatrists are foot doctors. When you have diabetes, you are at increased risk of having issues with blood flow to the feet, which can cause problems, so working with a podiatrist can be especially important.
- Mental-health professionals. Working with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist may be helpful when navigating the challenges of living with a chronic illness like diabetes. Living with diabetes can bring an emotional toll, so having a mental-health professional you trust to help you navigate these stressors is key.
- Pharmacist. A pharmacist is an expert in medications—working closely with one can be helpful when navigating your diabetes medications to make sure you know how to take them properly and know what may interact with them.
- Fitness professional. A physiologist, personal trainer, or physical therapist can also be an important addition to your diabetes healthcare team. It’s their job to help you come up with an appropriate exercise program and make sure you are doing it safely.
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