Myths and Misconceptions

Get a group of people together that have the common bond of juvenile diabetes and within minutes you’ll hear complaints about the misconceptions that people have about this disease. Most misconceptions and myths about IDDM are at the very least, annoying to people that live day to day with the disease and fully understand the reality of it. Myths and misconceptions often imply a sense of blame and guilt that are not appropriate for a person with diabetes or their family to have to be subjected to. Worse still, juvenile diabetes CURE research funding will never increase as long as there are rampant misconceptions about what IDDM really is. Until the general public realizes that IDDM is more than a ‘sugar problem’ they will never push for increases in research funding to find a CURE.

These are some of the myths and misconceptions that I’ve been approached with during the last two years and many of you have heard the same ones verbatim, at one time or another:

“Did he get diabetes from eating too much sugar or candy?”

No. I am a responsible parent and did not let him overindulge in candy or sweets. My son developed juvenile diabetes when his pancreas decreased or stopped its insulin production. We don’t know why his pancreas became ill though we suspect it could be genetics or a virus but we are certain that it had nothing to do with sugar and candy.

“He LOOKS healthy.”

Of course he does. Juvenile diabetes is an insidious disease that slowly accumulates damage as blood sugars fluctuate over the years.

“So he can’t eat any sugar or sweet foods now?”

Yes, he can eat sugar and sweet foods but they must be in limited amounts. People with diabetes must monitor the amount of carbohydrates in their diets regardless of what form it comes in. Carbohydrates are foods that turn to glucose once they are digested, like milk, pasta, rice, peas, beans, and other foods INCLUDING sweets and sugar.

“Does he take insulin pills like my grandmother does?”

No he doesn’t take oral medication for his blood sugar. If ‘grandma’ is taking oral meds, grandma has Type II diabetes and that is different than Type I. People with Type II diabetes are often insulin resistant, meaning that their pancreas is still producing insulin but for a variety of reasons, their bodies have become resistant to their own insulin and must rely on oral medications to help lower their blood sugar. People like my son with Type I, produce no insulin or decreased amounts of insulin and must rely on insulin being injected into their body to control their blood sugar levels. Injected insulin is a hormone that would be destroyed through the digestive process and useless if digested via the stomach and can only be utilized by the body through injections or inhaled and absorbed through the lungs. Inhaled insulin isn’t appropriate therapy for children as of yet.