Frequently Asked Questions about Diabetes

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Type 1 Diabetes

How do I know if I have type 1 diabetes?

Everyone who has type 1 diabetes knows they have it. The most common symptoms are: excessive urination (polyuria), excessive thirst (polydipsia), and excessive eating (polyphagia). When these symptoms appear, people consult their doctor, who will confirm the diagnosis and start treatment.

Did I do something to cause diabetes?

No. Type 1 diabetes is an immunological disease. In other words, there is an unknown factor (an environmental factor, a virus, etc.) which makes your body attack and destroy the cells of the pancreas which make insulin (beta cells).

What do I have to do now?

Type 1 diabetes is characterised by a total lack of insulin production by the pancreas, so you have to follow a treatment based on: inject rapid acting insulin before each meal, and long-acting insulin once or twice a day for 24-hour coverage; test your glucose levels 3 to 6 times a day; and follow a healthy, balanced diet plan, monitoring the carbohydrate-rich foods at every meal.

Can type 1 diabetes be cured?

Diabetes is a chronic disease, which means there is no cure at present, but the treatment is very effective. There are several lines of research into improving treatments and/or care.

Can I have children?

Yes. Women with diabetes will have to plan their pregnancy to avoid risks to the mother and birth defects. Before and during pregnancy, it is essential to have glycated haemoglobin levels below 6.5%. Men with diabetes do not need to plan before becoming a father.

Can my children have diabetes if I have it?

The probability of passing on the disease is almost the same as it is for the general public. The risk is about 5%. If both parents have type 1 diabetes, the risk increases to 25%.

Type 2 Diabetes

How do I know if I have diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is called a silent disease because years can pass before the symptoms appear. It is often diagnosed accidentally after a blood test for a different reason. Some people may also notice the most common symptoms, such as: excessive urination (polyuria), excessive thirst (polydipsia) and excessive eating (polyphagia).

Did I do something to cause diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is associated with the body’s inability to use the insulin it produces, or to produce enough insulin. It is strongly associated with genetic predisposition, and to being overweight or obese. So although the chance of having type 2 diabetes increases with age, you can help prevent or delay the disease by having a healthy diet and taking regular exercise (150 minutes per week).

What do I have to do now?

The treatment for type 2 diabetes varies depending on the stage at which the diabetes was diagnosed, and how it develops. Therefore, people with type 2 diabetes can be on different types of treatment. If the diagnosis is made in the initial stage of the disease, the usual treatment is a healthy diet, regular exercise, plus oral or injectable medications. If this treatment is not enough, other medications or insulin will be added. Over the years, most people with type 2 diabetes end up needing insulin.

Can type 2 diabetes be cured?

In some cases, where there is severe obesity which is considerably reduced by diet or surgery, diabetes may go into remission. But for the vast majority of people, the treatment will control the disease effectively and allow a good quality of life, without eliminating it.

Can I have children?

Yes. Women with type 2 diabetes will have to plan their pregnancy to avoid risks to the mother and birth defects. Before and during pregnancy, it is essential to have glycated haemoglobin levels below 6.5%. Men with diabetes do not need to plan before becoming a father.

Can my children have diabetes if I have it?

There is a much larger genetic component in type 2 diabetes than there is in type 1, but it must be considered that it is also strongly associated with lifestyle. This means that a healthy diet and regular exercise (150 minutes per week) can help prevent or delay the appearance of type 2 diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

How do I know if I have gestational diabetes?

You are unlikely to notice the symptoms of gestational diabetes, as it is usually diagnosed early during routine tests in pregnancy. If it is not diagnosed early, patients may notice symptoms associated with high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia): the baby gains excessive weight for its gestational age, and the mother has excessive thirst (polydipsia) and excessive urination (polyuria).

Did I do something to cause gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is associated with hormonal changes during pregnancy. Risk factors include: a mother aged over 35, high blood sugar but below diabetic levels (prediabetes), having had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, giving birth to a baby over 4 kg, having a miscarriage which cannot be explained for any other reason, a family history of type 2 diabetes affecting parents or siblings, or being overweight or obese with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg / m2 or higher.

What do I have to do now?

Future mothers can control gestational diabetes with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and if necessary, medication (usually insulin). Strictly controlling blood sugar levels can prevent a difficult birth and problems in the baby.

Can gestational diabetes be cured?

Blood sugar levels usually go back to normal soon after birth. However, mothers who have had gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

What complications can my child have?

Good prevention and the early diagnosis and treatment of gestational diabetes hugely reduce the risk of complications for the baby. Undetected gestational diabetes can affect both the baby (excess birth weight, premature birth, hypoglycaemias, and risk of type 2 diabetes) and the mother (high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes in a future pregnancy, and risk of type 2 diabetes).

Can my children have diabetes if I have it?

Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Substantiated information by:
Enric EsmatjesEndocrinologist — Endocrinology DepartmentMargarida JansàNurse expert in Diabetes and Therapeutic Education — Endocrinology DepartmentDaría RocaNurse expert in Diabetes and Therapeutic Education — Endocrinology DepartmentMercè VidalNurse expert in Diabetes and Therapeutic Education — Endocrinology DepartmentIrene VinagreEndocrinologist — Endocrinology Department

Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 20 February 2018

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