There are a number of myths about diabetes that are all too commonly reported as facts. These misrepresentations of diabetes can sometimes be harmful and lead to an unfair stigma around the condition.
Diabetes information is widely available, both from healthcare professionals and the Internet, but not all of it is true.
It can be hard to know what is accurate, so this page aims to highlight the top ten of the most common diabetes myths.
As well as diabetes myths, you may be interested in these diabetes facts.
Myth 1: People with diabetes can’t eat sugar
This is one of the most common diabetes myths; that people with the condition have to eat a sugar-free diet.
People with diabetes need to eat a diet that is balanced, which can include some sugar in moderation.
People with diabetes can eat sugar.
Myth 2: Type 2 diabetes is mild
This diabetes myth is widely repeated, but of course it isn’t true.
No form of diabetes is mild.
If type 2 diabetes is poorly managed it can lead to serious (even life-threatening) complications.
Good control of diabetes can significantly decrease the risk of complications but this doesn’t mean the condition itself is not serious.
Myth 3: Type 2 diabetes only affects fat people
Whilst type 2 diabetes is often associated with being overweight and obese by the media, it is patently untrue that type 2 diabetes only affects overweight people.
Around 20% of people with type 2 diabetes are of a normal weight, or underweight.
There are a quite a lot of common myths that exist about diabetes. Diabetes isn't an allergy to sugar. If we eat sugar it's not going to knock us dead or cause us to be hospitalised - we just need to be more careful with how much we have because it affects our blood sugar levels.
As a general rule, it's best not to make any sweeping assumptions about what people with diabetes should or should not have.
Myth 4: People with diabetes should only eat diabetic food
Diabetic food is one of the most common myths of the last ten years. The label ‘diabetic’ is often used on sweets foods. Often sugar alcohols, or other sweeteners, will be used instead of sugar. Diabetic food will often still affect blood glucose levels, is expensive, and may also cause adverse side effects.
Diabetes charity Diabetes UK recommends that people with diabetes avoid diabetic food.
Myth 5: People with diabetes go blind and lose their legs
Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness and also causes many amputations each year. However, those people with diabetes that control blood pressure, glucose, weight and quit smoking all increase their chances of remaining complication free.
Blindness and amputation are therefore preventable and the vast majority of people with diabetes will avoid blindness and amputation, particularly if annual diabetic health checks are attended each year.
Myth 6: People with diabetes are dangerous drivers
This myth is based around an inaccurate generalisation. The main danger of driving for people with diabetes is if hypoglycemia occurs.
However, hypoglycemia is a preventable state and the vast majority of people with diabetes at risk of hypos exercise care to avoid hypos taking place whilst driving.
Statistics show that diabetics are no less safe on the road than anyone else with significant accidents being attributed to hypoglycemia affecting less 0.2% of drivers treated with insulin.
However, the myth that people with diabetes are dangerous drivers is ongoing.
Myth 7: People with diabetes shouldn’t play sport
High-prominence diabetic sportsmen and women have disproved this diabetes myth. People with diabetes should take part in exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
There are some factors worth considering before partaking in sport, but there is no reason why people with diabetes can’t participate in most cases.
- See a list of some of the sportspeople that have performed with diabetes.
Myth 8: People with diabetes can't do many jobs
Having diabetes won’t stop you from having a job and with the improvements that have been made in treatment of diabetes, the number of jobs that people with diabetes are ineligible for is now very small.
The armed forces is one profession which may prevent people with diabetes from entering specific roles, such as front line service, but many other positions will be accessible.
It’s worth noting that people with diabetes that cannot work, for individual sight or mobility reasons, may be entitled to specific benefits.
Myth 9: People with diabetes are more likely to be ill
People with diabetes are not more likely to have colds or other illnesses. The significance of illness for people with diabetes is that it can make the management of blood glucose levels more difficult which can increase the severity of an illness or infection. Prevention of illness is particularly important and therefore flu jabs are advisable and free.
Myth 10: Diabetes is contagious
Something of a classic playground myth, diabetes cannot be caught off someone else. Diabetes is categorised as being a non-communicable illness meaning it cannot be passed on by sneezing, through touch, nor via blood or any other person to person means.
The only way in which diabetes can be passed on is from parents to their own children but even this is only a genetic likelihood of diabetes and not the condition itself.