When you have type 2 diabetes, you want to feel confident that you’re on the right track to take care of yourself. Never hesitate to ask your doctor any questions about your treatment plan, whether it’s about lifestyle changes or medications. To help, here are answer to common questions people have about their diabetes treatment.
Is There a Cure?
No, but it is possible to put type 2 diabetes in remission and prevent some of the damage it causes. Eating healthier, being active, and losing weight (if you’re overweight) are key. Sticking with this may help you get your blood sugar levels back to normal, which might mean that you could cut back on, or even stop, medications if your doctor agrees.
This is why lifestyle changes are such an important part of managing your diabetes. Of course, any medications your doctor prescribes will play a key role, but a healthy diet and regular exercise should be at the top of your list when it comes to staying healthy and keeping your diabetes in check.
Make it your goal to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. You can work your way up to that. You’ll also want to work with your doctor -- and possibly a dietitian or diabetes educator -- for a food plan that works for you.
Getting good sleep helps, too. If you regularly sleep less than 7 hours a night, it can throw off your blood sugar levels.
What Happens at a Diabetes Checkup?
Your doctor will check your blood sugar levels (the test is called an A1c test). You’ll also get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked. You want to make sure that these numbers are low to keep your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other major problems low.
Your doctor will also take a close look at your eyes and feet for diabetes-related problems like retinopathy (which can lead to vision loss) and foot ulcers (which, if they don't heal properly, can get infected and lead to amputation).
Will I Have to Take Insulin?
People with type 1 diabetes definitely have to take insulin. But with type 2 diabetes, not everyone has to.
If diet, exercise, and watching your weight aren't enough to get your blood sugar levels in check, your doctor will start you on diabetes medications you take by mouth. You’ll probably start with a pill called metformin that helps your body use insulin more efficiently. If you don't respond well to metformin or other oral medications, your doctor may start you on other drugs or add insulin to your treatment plan.
Keep in mind that diabetes is a progressive disease, meaning your needs can change over time. So it's possible that even if you don't need insulin now, you may need it with time.
How Do I Check My Glucose at Home?
The most common way is to use a blood glucose meter. You prick your finger and put a drop of blood on a test strip to find out how much glucose is in your blood.
If you use insulin and are prone to having low blood sugar, especially overnight, your doctor may suggest using a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device. You'll wear a sensor on your skin that reads glucose levels every few minutes throughout the day and night.
If I Take Insulin, Will I Have to Take It Forever?
Not always. Sometimes insulin is a temporary fix. For example, your doctor might recommend it if you are pregnant or are hospitalized with an acute illness. Some estimates show that about 67% of people with type 2 diabetes who take insulin don't need to take it forever.
Will I End Up on Dialysis?
While it's true that diabetes is a major risk factor for kidney disease, you can do a lot to protect yourself by taking medication and controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure. Even if you develop the early stages of kidney disease, you can cut your risk of further kidney damage in half by getting your blood sugar levels under control and by taking the right medications to control your blood pressure and blood sugar.
CDC: “About Diabetes.”
Joslin Diabetes Center: "Can Type 2 Diabetes Be Reversed?”
The Lancet: "Understanding the mechanisms of reversal of type 2 diabetes."
University of California, San Francisco Diabetes Education Online: "Type 2 Diabetes FAQs."
Mayo Clinic: "Type 2 diabetes."
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Managing Diabetes," "Diabetic Eye Disease," "Diabetes and Foot Problems," "Insulin, Medicines, & Other Diabetes Treatments."
National Sleep Foundation: "The Link Between a Lack of Sleep and Type 2 Diabetes."
American Diabetes Association: "Conquer High Blood Pressure," "Better blood glucose meters and more," "Kidney Disease (Nephropathy)."
American Heart Association: "Cholesterol Abnormalities and Diabetes."
DiabetesSpectrum: "Continuous Glucose Monitoring: The Future of Diabetes Management."
Cleveland Clinic: "4 FAQs About Diabetes."
National Kidney Foundation: "Diabetes - A Major Risk Factor for Kidney Disease."