Sugar Matters
October 12, 2007

Myths, facts about diabetes Pt:7

Myth #7-Being on insulin means you have “bad diabetes”-FALSE

I had to address this myth soon because I still get looks of horror when I tell someone they need insulin. Part of the problem with this myth is what people call “bad diabetes.” I have many patients taking insulin who have excellent blood sugars, no problems with their eyes, heart, feet, kidneys etc.{{more}} Then I have patients who take one or two pills for their diabetes but don’t do a good job of actually TAKING the medicine and they have all sorts of kidney and heart problems. So who here has the “bad diabetes?” It is not the medication that defines “bad diabetes”. In my opinion, it is your blood sugars and state of health that tell me this information.

Insulin, as you recall from earlier articles, is the hormone made by our bodies to keep our blood sugars in the correct range. Even if you are not eating, your body still makes a small amount of insulin to help keep blood sugar levels steady (because our liver makes sugar for us when we fast). FACT: Humans need insulin to survive.

Now, in the case of Type 1 diabetes, where you don’t make any insulin, you have no choice but to take insulin prescribed by your doctor (unless you have surgery to get a new pancreas, and that is a whole other matter).

If you have Type 2 Diabetes and are on insulin, or your doctor is talking about starting insulin, please do not panic. Yes, taking insulin can be another medication challenge, I will not deny that. Many patients tell me they are embarrassed to have their needles seen by anyone, they are afraid people at work will treat them differently, they are afraid to give themselves shots, they afraid of blood sugars going low etc. There are many concerns with taking insulin, but that does not mean you should not start. Before I did my specialty training, I was very cautious in starting people on insulin because they were afraid. But now, after training in Diabetes and knowing how much damage high sugars do in a short time, I am, I hate to say it, fairly aggressive. This idea of insulin being for “bad diabetes” is partially the fault of us doctors who sometimes wait too long to start insulin, so by the time you have the bad kidney or dead foot and we say, “Uh Oh, it’s time to start insulin,” our patients then think, “Oh, insulin is for bad diabetes.” This is where this wrong idea comes from.

The key is to start taking insulin BEFORE your blood sugars do horrible things to your body. If the car needs some extra oil to run better, you do it. If the plants need some extra fertilizer, you provide it. If your child needs some medication to breath better, you give it. Are you any less important?

Anita Ramsetty, MD
Medical Director Endocrine Care Group
Tel: 843-798-4227