Diabetes is widespread, and so are the myths surrounding the condition.

Diabetes is a widespread metabolic disorder that affects about 30 million Americans. The very serious condition accounts for a majority of the approximately 73,000 annual, non-traumatic amputations that occur in the U.S., according to the American Diabetes Association. With this increasingly prominent disorder comes widespread misconceptions – the general public has many false ideas about diabetes and what it means to live with the condition. Consider some of these common myths:

1. Diabetes is caused by insulin deficiency

It’s true that Type 1 diabetes is caused by insulin deficiency – in this case, the pancreas stops producing the essential chemical. However, the other and more common form, Type 2 diabetes, is the result of the body’s inability to properly use insulin. In essence, the pancreas produces enough, but the insulin does not prompt the body’s cells to absorb the glucose produced by eating food. Over time, the pancreas may stop producing insulin, at which point the patient may need to turn to insulin injections.

2. Sugar intake causes diabetes

A common misconception is that diet is the cause of consuming too much sugar. As the Joslin Diabetes Center explains, the precise cause of Type 1 diabetes is not net known, but scientists have suspicions that genetics, environmental factors and viruses may play a role. As for Type 2 diabetes, obesity, age and genetics are the main factors. Of course, eating high amounts of sugar can lead to obesity, which is why many people believe there is direct link between sugar and diabetes.

3. People with diabetes shouldn’t exercise

Some believe that, when you have diabetes, you can’t engage in brisk physical activity, as doing so could lead to low blood sugar. This is a grave misconception – exercise is actually essential to managing blood glucose levels. With that in mind, it’s important to speak to a clinician to develop an exercise plan that’s right for your particular body. For instance, particular exercises may not be suitable for someone with, say, a diabetic foot ulcer or a cardiovascular condition.

4. Diabetics are more prone to cold and flu

People with diabetes are not more susceptible to contagious diseases, including the cold and flu. However, it’s still advised that people with diabetes get their annual flu shots. That’s because, if a diabetic gets a cold or flu, the potential complications can be much more serious. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains, people with diabetes are more likely to be hospitalized due to the cold and flu three-fold.

5. Diabetes is a death sentence

Don’t be mistaken: Diabetes is a serious condition that can reduce one’s quality and length of life. Amputation spurred by diabetic foot ulcers are one of the most common complications that can lead to early morbidity. However, advancements in medicine and health care have given people much greater control over their conditions. As Dr. Scott Stratton-Smith, a diabetes specialist, explained to Healthline, the progression of the disease is now largely in the hands of the patient.

“I have sugar, my grandma had sugar, and she lost her legs and died,” Stratton-Smith said. “It takes a long time to progress until you lose limbs. We can provide medications, but the initial treatment is diet and exercise. If you choose to follow the recommendations you’ll do well. It’s difficult to change your lifestyle, but it’s definitely possible.”

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