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Type 2 Diabetes: Coping With the News

Learn how to control it, then find a support group.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

It's a tough diagnosis to swallow: You've got type 2 diabetes. You founder in a sea of unsettling, even frightening words -- glucose levels, blood testing meters, insulin, kidney disease, blindness, foot ulcers, amputation.

"It can seem overwhelming at first," Lawrence Phillips, MD, an endocrinologist with Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, tells WebMD. "Diabetes is a new world for most people. They are uncertain what the future holds for their health."

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Diane Schafer, LDN/RD, is a certified diabetes educator at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans. She's counseled scores of patients. "Often they don't really hear what I say," she tells WebMD. "They're thinking, 'Why me? Why is God punishing me?'"

In today's medical world, type 2 diabetes is a manageable problem -- "it is not your fate," Phillips says. "You have the ability to control your destiny. This is a serious disease, it's a silent killer, and bad things can happen if we don't take care of it. But we know how to monitor the disease, and we're much better able to take care of it now. We know how to screen for and manage complications. The prognosis is very, very good."

In Denial

Yet anger is often the first reaction: "This should not be happening to me," one woman told Schafer. "I watch what I eat, I get regular exercise, I don't understand this." Unfortunately, if a father or mother had type 2 diabetes, their child has an increased risk of developing the disease.

Denial is common: When the local football coach was diagnosed, Schafer talked to him once -- but hasn't seen him since. Turns out, his mother had diabetes, began taking insulin, yet she went blind, Schafer says. "Just because his mother had those experiences, that doesn't mean he will, too. But if he doesn't come back, he won't learn what he needs to do."

Guilt, depression, and anxiety are rampant: "This is terrible," said one man to Schafer. "It will affect the rest of my life."

Schafer says she feels empathy; she developed diabetes during a pregnancy. Her dad has type 2 diabetes. "I could get it back tomorrow," she says.

But diabetes does not have to take over your life. With just a few lifestyle changes, it can be controlled, Phillips says. "It doesn't require hours of time every day."

Controlling blood sugar is Priority No. 1: "You have to check your blood sugar before you eat -- four, maybe five times a day. It takes about a minute each time," Phillips explains. "Taking a pill takes no time at all. Even if you need an insulin injection, that's less than a minute or two. You have to think about what you eat, but that will not require hours." Even regular exercise (like walking) takes half an hour maximum, a few days a week.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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