You've just been diagnosed with diabetes...what now?
Diabetes is a disease that can be self-managed, but it is important for you to have the proper education, tools and support. Your health care team as well as this web-site are ready to help you find support in your area for help in managing your diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when your body is unable to break-down glucose in your blood stream and use it properly for energy. This is because either your body has stopped producing insulin or your insulin is not working properly. Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone that is released from your pancreas throughout the day and night to maintain your blood glucose levels at a normal level.
When you develop diabetes, your blood glucose levels go higher than normal because your pancreas is not working properly. High glucose levels over a long period of time can cause damage to your blood vessels, and nerves. The good news is that through extensive research, we know that these complications can be prevented. It is up to you, with support from your family, friends, and health care team, to try to keep your blood glucose levels in a normal range. There is no cure for diabetes, but we have the education, tools and support to help you manage it well. To learn more about managing your diabetes, you can refer yourself for Diabetes Education using a self-referral form.
"To Do" List:
When you are first diagnosed:
Obtain a blood glucose meter from your pharmacist and start checking your blood sugar as directed. For help on choosing a meter, click here
Have your eyes examined
Attend a Diabetes Education Program to learn everything you can about diabetes. Ask your physician or nurse practiioner to refer you, or for a self-referral form, click here
Schedule a follow-up appointment in 3 months with your family physician or nurse practitioner
On a daily basis:
Eat 3 meals a day, avoiding juice and sugar drinks, until you see a registered dietitian at your Diabetes Education Program
Be as active as you can such as walking daily
Take your diabetes medication as directed, and continue to take it even when your blood sugars are better
Check your blood sugar at various times during the day and record them in your log book
Write down any question you have to take with you to your next appointment
In 3 months time:
Have your blood work done 1 to 2 weeks prior to your next medical appointment
Take your log book and meter with you to your appointment
Take your list of questions to your appointment
Record your lab results and next appointment in your diabetes Passport. To get a copy of a diabetes Passport, click here
Set personal goals for yourself for the next 3 months and write them down
Have your eyes examined with a dilated eye exam. A yearly eye exam is covered by OHIP for people with diabetes
Your doctor will order lab work throughout the year. For more information on your tests, click here
10% of people with diabetes (more than 8,000 children and adults in Ontario) have Type 1 diabetes (formerly called Juvenile Diabetes). The cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown, although a number of research studies are underway. It occurs more frequently between 4 and 9 years of age, but it can also occur at any age. We also know it occurs more frequently in the spring and fall.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when your pancreas stops making insulin as a result of an auto-immune response, meaning the insulin-producing cells of your pancreas (beta cells) stop making insulin. Without insulin, you cannot survive. If your pancreas does not make insulin, you have to take insulin as an injection under the skin (it is not available in pill form). People with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin for the rest of their lives. For more information on Type 1 diabetes, click here
Type 2 Diabetes
The majority of people have Type 2 diabetes. This is the type of diabetes that is rapidly increasing in our population. It usually occurs in adults, although we are starting to see children with Type 2 diabetes, directly related to being overweight. For people with Type 2 diabetes, your pancreas is still making insulin, but you have become resistant to your own insulin, or your pancreas is not producing enough insulin . This may be because of genetics, culture, weight, age or inactivity, to name a few risk factors.
Type 2 diabetes can be managed with lifestyle changes, pills and/or insulin.
Comparison between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes
Usually adults, but now some children
Family history of Type 1 diabetes
Family history of Type 2 diabetes
Overweight (especially large waist)
Certain ethnic groups (Aboriginal, Arabic, Hispanic or Asian)
Lifestyle and Genes
Symptoms at Diagnosis
Often few symptoms
Why is it important to manage my diabetes?
High blood glucose levels cause short-term and long-term complications. Short-term complications are things such as feeling tired, developing infections or having blurred vision. These can all be corrected with lowering your blood glucose levels to normal levels. For people with Type 1 diabetes, there is risk of developing Diabetic Ketoacidosis, if you miss taking your insulin. This can be a life-threatening condition, and can be avoided by monitoring your blood glucose regularly and taking your insulin as directed.
Long-term complications are more permanent and result from having high blood glucose levels for a long time (5 to 10 years). High blood glucose levels over time damage your blood vessels and your nerves, causing kidney damage, blindness or many other complications. Often there are no symptoms of this occurring until the complications have set in. For people with Type 2 diabetes, it is especially important to get good control of your blood glucose levels as soon as you are diagnosed, because it is likely you have had abnormal glucose levels for a period of time before you were diagnosed.
Myth: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes
Fact: Eating too much sugar does not cause diabetes. Eating too many calories can make you overweight, making you at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes.
Myth: Type 1 diabetes is the "bad" diabetes
Fact: There is no "bad" or "good" diabetes. The bad part of diabetes are the complications that occur if you don't manage it well. These complications occur from high glucose readings over a span of 5 to 10 years, so can occur with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
Myth: People start with Type 2 diabetes but progress to Type 1 diabetes
Fact: Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are different diseases. They are not different stages of the same disease. Sometimes people with Type 2 diabetes need to go on insulin to control their blood glucose, but they still have Type 2 diabetes on insulin.
Myth: You have to follow a strict diabetic diet
Fact: There is no "diabetic diet". People living with diabetes should follow a healthy meal plan based on Canada's Food Guide, just as all people should do. People with Type 1 diabetes can give extra insulin as required to cover any extra carbohydrates they eat.
History of Diabetes
It's interesting to know that diabetes was first identified in the 1st century A.D. by Egyptians and Greeks and was described as a "melting down of the flesh and limbs into urine". This was because people with Type 1 diabetes had excessive urination and weight loss. The word "diabetes" originates from the Greek word meaning "a siphon" because people "passed water like a siphon".
The full term for diabetes is "diabetes mellitus". "Mellitus" is Latin for honey, which is how they described the urine of people with diabetes as their primitive diagnostic test included tasting the urine to see if it was sweet.
It wasn't until 1922 in Toronto, that Dr. Frederick Banting discovered insulin which finally offered a treatment for diabetes.
In 1959, researchers identified a second type of diabetes, that didn't require insulin--Type 2 diabetes. Since that time much research has been done on Type 2 diabetes. There are now a variety of treatments available including pills, insulin and most recently another injectable called a GLP-1.