Myths About Treatments

If you have diabetes, it is important to get the facts about diabetes treatments. The following are some common myths and misconceptions about the management and treatment of diabetes.

Myth 1: If you have type 2 diabetes and your doctor says you need to start using insulin, it means you’re failing to take care of your diabetes properly

FACT: If you have diabetes and need to take insulin, it is not a sign that you are failing to take care of your diabetes properly. In type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune process destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. That’s why it is necessary for people with type 1 diabetes to take insulin, because their pancreas is not producing sufficient amounts on its own. In type 2 diabetes, the body becomes resistant to insulin, so that insulin can no longer do its job of helping cells take in glucose. Additionally, in type 2 diabetes, especially over time, the pancreas can also stop producing sufficient amounts of insulin. Oral drugs can be used to help control blood glucose, but in certain circumstances when these drugs are not effective enough, it may be necessary to take insulin. So, the need to take insulin is not a sign that you are not taking care of your diabetes. Rather, it is a part of the disease process of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.1,2

Myth 2: If you have diabetes, you should soak your feet daily

FACT: If you have diabetes, soaking your feet daily is not recommended and can lead to serious problems. Diabetes is associated with foot problems. These problems are often due to loss of sensation in the feet, which increases the likelihood of undetected injuries, and the tendency for wounds to heal more slowly in a person with diabetes. A person with diabetes should make routine foot care a priority. However, this routine should not include daily soaking of the feet. Soaking can cause the skin on the feet to dry out, increasing the risks for cracking and infection. If you have diabetes and especially if you have polyneuropathy with loss of sensation in your feet, you should3:

  • Monitor your feet daily for changes in the skin and especially for wounds and cracks that can increase risk for infection
  • Keep your feet clean by washing them daily
  • Do not engage in activities that can result in foot injury (these include walking barefoot, use of a heating pad or other source of heat on the foot)
  • When trimming nails use care
  • Choose socks that fit loosely and change them every day
  • Make sure your shoes fit correctly to reduce the risk for blisters
  • Make sure your doctor gives you regular foot exams

Learn more about diabetic foot care.

Myth 3: Taking insulin makes you an unsafe driver

FACT: Taking insulin does not affect your ability to drive. Most drivers who use insulin can safely operate their cars.5

Myth 4: If you are dependent on insulin you are at risk for serious health complications

FACT: If you have diabetes and are dependent on insulin, it means that your body is no longer producing a sufficient amount of insulin and oral medications alone are not effective at controlling your blood glucose. If you have type 2 diabetes and need to take insulin, you are at no greater risk for serious health complications than someone with type 1 diabetes. The key to avoiding serious health complications is keeping your blood glucose level under control and for many people this means a A1C level of 6.5% or lower. Monitoring your blood glucose regularly and taking insulin can help you achieve this level safely and effectively.

Myth 5: Diabetes will not improve unless you lose a lot of weight

FACT: If you have diabetes, you don’t have to lose a ton of weight to improve your health. Even losing a modest amount of weight can help your diabetes improve. For instance, losing just 15 lbs of weight if you weigh 200 lbs (that’s 7% of your body weight) will provide significant health benefits and help you control your blood glucose.5

Myth 6: If you’re sick and can’t eat, you do not have to take your diabetes medications

FACT: If you are sick, and even if you can’t eat, you should not skip your diabetes medications. The reason is that when you are sick, your body produces hormones that can increase your blood glucose. If you’re sick, it’s a good idea to check your blood glucose, even if it’s usually controlled and you’re not in the habit of checking it regularly. If you find that your blood glucose control is off, then you can discuss with your doctor the best approach to getting it under control.

Myth 7: If you have diabetes, you should not exercise

FACT: The notion that exercise is bad or risky for a person with diabetes is a particularly dangerous myth. Regular aerobic exercise should be an integral part of every diabetes care plan. Regular exercise, along with weight loss and healthy eating, can help you control your blood glucose. It can decrease your risk for a long list of health problems for which people with diabetes are at increased risk. In a large study conducted in 3,000 individuals with impaired glucose tolerance (which often leads to type 2 diabetes), a healthy diet and regular exercise resulting in weight reduction of 5% to 7% (this would be about 10-14 lbs in a person weighing 200 lbs) reduced the risk for developing type 2 diabetes by almost 60%. This demonstrates the huge potential for regular exercise as part of healthy lifestyle choices in the management of diabetes. Keep in mind this important fact: to get the benefits of regular exercise, you don’t have to kill yourself. Most of the participants in the study mentioned above were not running marathons, but walking regularly (at least 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week).6

Written by: Jonathan Simmons | Last reviewed: May 2014.
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