Fifteen percent of adults in West Virginia have been diagnosed with diabetes. An even higher percentage have a condition called “pre-diabetes,” which occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. These are some of the facts.

There are also many myths about diabetes. Vicki Chase, MSN, RN, CDE, the diabetes education coordinator at the WVU Medicine-WVU Hospitals Diabetes Education Center, helps separate fact from fiction.

While reviewing the myths and facts, keep in mind that type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and unknown factors. And type 2 diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors.

Myth: You’ll have symptoms if your blood sugar is too high.
Fact: If your blood sugar levels are only slightly elevated, you probably won’t have symptoms. If they’re moderately elevated, you may have mild symptoms that are easily overlooked. And if your blood sugar levels are high, symptoms can include fatigue, increased hunger or thirst, weight loss, sores that don’t heal and frequent urination. It is possible to have type 2 diabetes and experience no symptoms at all.

Vicki Chase

Myth: Eating too much sugar can lead to diabetes.
Fact: Sugar does not cause diabetes, but it can cause weight gain, which promotes type 2 diabetes in those who are genetically likely to develop the disease. While those with diabetes are advised to avoid foods with a high-sugar content, elevated blood sugar levels are a result of having diabetes, not the cause.

Myth: You will eventually develop type 2 diabetes if you are overweight or obese. Thin people don’t get the disease.
Fact: Being overweight is just one risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. Others factors include family history, ethnicity and age. Most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.

Myth: Only older people get diabetes.
Fact: More children than ever before are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. To help prevent diabetes in children, parents should encourage good health habits, including more physical activity and less junk food.

Myth: All people with diabetes need to take insulin.
Fact: While that’s the case for type 1 diabetes, it does not hold true for type 2 diabetes. In some cases, proper diet, exercise and oral medications, if needed, can keep type 2 diabetes under control for some time before insulin becomes necessary. It is also important not to smoke.

About 800 diabetes patients – adults and kids – are cared for at the WVU Medicine-WVU Hospitals Diabetes Education Center each month. They range from the recently diagnosed to those who need a refresher course. For information on the diabetes support group, visit www.wvumedicine.org/support-groups. To learn about a free diabetes prevention program kicking off on Thursday, Nov. 3, call 304-598-4391, ext. 1.

Make an appointment: 855-WVU-CARE