Fact or myth? 5 diabetes truths
Like many medical conditions, diabetes is often misunderstood. And it’s easy to get confused by the sheer amount of information out there. Is sugar the cause? And can you really drive with diabetes? In this post, we bust some myths and give you the truth behind some common questions.
1. Does sugar cause diabetes?
Sugar doesn’t directly cause diabetes. But it’s still one of the most common myths about the condition. When it comes to type 1, there is no link between eating sugary foods and developing the auto-immune condition. Contributing factors could include genetics and some viruses, but the exact cause is presently unknown.
With type 2 diabetes, a high-sugar (as well as overall high-calorie) diet can lead to weight gain, which in turn can increase the chances of developing the condition. But it’s important to remember that sugar alone will not cause type 2. Excess weight and a high BMI as a result of a high-calorie diet (which may include a lot of sugary foods) is one risk factor. It can also be a hereditary condition.
2. Can I drive if I have diabetes?
It's a myth that all people with diabetes are not permitted to drive. But in the interest of your own safety as well as that of others on the road, you may need to meet certain requirements, take the right precautions and – under certain circumstances – notify the DVLA. Applying or renewing a licence may also be a bit more time consuming. Always check with your healthcare team first to understand if your specific condition means you need to tell the DVLA.
It's true that diabetes – specifically type 2 – can go under the radar, sometimes for years, before being detected. Type 2 is a slow-progressing condition and people may not notice the initially mild symptoms or they might mistake them for something else. The typical symptoms for both type 1 and type 2 include increased urination, thirst, fatigue, hunger, dry mouth and blurred vision to name a few. In the case of type 2, some of the symptoms may overlap with general signs of ageing, for example needing the bathroom more or having poor vision. As a result, it’s easy to carry on as normal thinking your body is just ageing naturally. Many people with undiagnosed type 2 just accept their symptoms as normal and their condition isn’t picked up until they have a screening.
- Urinating more often, especially at night.
- Feeling more thirsty than usual.
- Getting frequent yeast infections.
- Noticing your cuts or wounds are taking a long time to heal
- Suffering from blurred or unfocussed vision.
- Experiencing unexplained weight loss.
4. Can high or low blood glucose (sugar) really cause mood swings?
For many people, a sudden shift in mood is often one of the early signs of out-of- range levels. Fluctuations in blood glucose can directly impact how you feel and often it’s something that your family or loved ones notice before you are even aware of it. Changes in mood are specific to individuals, but often hypos are associated with feelings of anxiety, confusion and low mood whereas hypers are linked to feelings of sudden nervousness, fuzzy-headedness, tiredness and fatigue.
People often find that once their levels are back in range, these symptoms soon subside, however please check with your healthcare professional if you are concerned.
5. Will I have to eat only ‘diabetic’ foods now that I’ve been diagnosed?
Having diabetes doesn’t mean having to follow a special diet. Rather it’s about a healthy balanced diet which includes each of the main food groups in moderation. You may find you have to limit your intake of certain carbohydrates, but the emphasis is on a wide range of wholesome foods.
There has been a noticeable rise in the sale of foods aimed specifically at people living with diabetes. These 'diabetes-friendly' foods promise to be low in sugar while still full of flavour. While some low sugar/calorie drinks can be a good idea if you’re swapping from full fat colas, other foods such as ‘diabetic chocolate’ may not be the best substitute. It’s worth noting that there are no health benefits to diabetic chocolate when compared to regular chocolate. In fact, ‘diabetic chocolate’ may claim not to have sugar but it may also contain the same amount of if not more calories than regular chocolate. It may also have laxative properties and could be more expensive. You might be better off with a small portion of the real stuff.
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The views expressed in the Accu-Chek blog are not necessarily those of Roche Diabetes Care Limited or our publishers. The content is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely – you must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content. Although we make reasonable efforts to ensure that the content is up to date, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content is accurate, complete or up-to-date.