Debunking type 2 diabetes misconceptions
Learn more about type 2 diabetes
September 16, 2022
In the U.S., approximately 37.3 million people are living with diabetes. And, while diabetes is a major health concern, there are common misconceptions around type 2 diabetes diagnosis and management that should be addressed.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90-95% of all diabetes cases in the U.S. The disease is characterized by resistance to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, which helps glucose get into the body’s cells to be used for energy. In people with type 2 diabetes, the body isn’t able to properly use insulin, which allows too much glucose to build up in the blood and causes high blood sugar.
Here are some type 2 diabetes misconceptions explained.
Misconception: Type 2 diabetes is not a serious disease.
Explanation: Type 2 diabetes should be taken seriously. If type 2 diabetes is not managed properly, it can lead to serious complications over time. Diabetes management, including learning about the condition, adopting a healthy lifestyle and working with a health care provider to create a treatment plan, can help decrease the risk of long-term complications.
Misconception: If you have type 2 diabetes, you’ll always know by the symptoms you experience.
Explanation: Type 2 diabetes symptoms may develop slowly, often over several years, and can be so mild that it’s easy for symptoms to go unnoticed. Many people have no diabetes symptoms at all. In fact, approximately 23% of U.S. adults with diabetes are undiagnosed.
Type 2 diabetes symptoms may include:
- Excessive thirst and/or hunger
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and/or feet
Misconception: All people with type 2 diabetes are overweight.
Explanation: While research shows that people who are overweight and who are not physically active are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, there are other personal and lifestyle factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing the condition, including:
- Age (45 years or older)
- First degree family history (mother, father, sister, brother)
- Ethnicity (African Americans, Hispanic/Latinx Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives and some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are at higher risk)
Misconception: If a family member has type 2 diabetes, I’ll also develop type 2 diabetes.
Explanation: If your mother, father, sister or brother has type 2 diabetes, you may have an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. However, this is only one of several risk factors. Adopting healthy lifestyle habits may help reduce your risk.
Misconception: Type 2 diabetes only affects blood sugar.
Explanation: People with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke. However, there are steps that can be taken to help reduce the risk of some of the more serious complications. These include keeping blood sugar levels as close as possible to a person’s individualized goal, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining blood pressure and cholesterol at levels set by a health care professional.
Misconception: Type 2 diabetes can be cured.
Explanation: There’s no cure for type 2 diabetes, as it’s a progressive disease. However, there are some lifestyle changes that can help manage the condition, including making healthy food choices and increasing physical activity. Choose whole, minimally processed foods, such as fruits, non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat or skim milk cheese, as well as water over juice. Pay attention to how much you are eating, as larger portion sizes mean more calories. Additionally, exercise has been shown to improve blood glucose control, reduce cardiovascular risk factors and contribute to weight loss. Lifestyle changes alone may not be enough to control blood sugar. That’s why it’s important to work with your health care provider to develop an individualized treatment plan.