Myth: Isn't diabetes just "a touch of sugar."
Fact: Diabetes is a serious chronic medical condition that if left untreated can be life threatening. Diabetes develops when your body is unable to use insulin properly, doesn't make enough insulin, or both. The two most common types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes (formerly known as juvenile diabetes) is characterized by the body's inability to produce insulin; the cause of this condition is currently unknown. Type 2 diabetes (formerly known as adult onset diabetes) is characterized by a resistance to insulin; 90-95% of people diagnosed with diabetes are diagnosed with type 2. Because obesity is a common risk factor of type 2 diabetes, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes among young people is increasing as the number of overweight youth rises.
Myth: Diabetes isn't a serious disease - cancer and HIV/AIDs affect many more people than diabetes.
Fact: While cancer and HIV/AIDs may seem more prevalent due to the resources and attention they receive, diabetes is actually more common than either of these diseases in the U.S., with nearly 24 million Americans diagnosed and undiagnosed. On its current course, the number of people with diabetes is projected to nearly double to 44.1 million by 2034 due in large part to the aging baby boomer population and increased rates of overweight Americans and obesity.
Myth: Diabetes rarely goes undiagnosed.
Fact: There are nearly 6 million people in the United States living with diabetes who are undiagnosed. The American Diabetes Association recommends that all adults who are overweight and have at least one additional risk factor be tested for diabetes. These risk factors include physical inactivity, immediate relative (immediate = 1st degree relative) with diabetes, member of a high-risk population (e.g. African American, Latino, Native American, Asian American, Pacific Islander), diagnosed hypertension (at least 140/90 mmHg or on therapy for hypertension), HDL cholesterol levels (HDL is < 35 mg/dL), history of cardiovascular disease and women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. In the absence of known risk factors testing is recommended beginning at age 45 and should continue every three years.
Myth: Diabetes is a death sentence.
Fact: Diabetes cannot yet be cured, but it can be managed. With the proper diet, exercise, regular blood sugar testing, and treatment therapy, people living with diabetes can lead full and active lives. However, if left untreated, diabetes can lead to serious and life threatening complications including, stroke, kidney disease, high blood pressure, blindness, nerve problems and amputations.2
Myth: If I have type 2 diabetes and my doctor prescribes insulin, it means I failed in managing my diabetes.
Fact: Medical guidelines and recommendations aimed at curbing the progression of type 2 diabetes have included earlier introduction of insulin for patients who have not succeeded in improving glycemic control with exercise and oral medication alone.5
However, it is important to remember that type 2 diabetes is a disease that changes over time, even if you do everything right. Most people with type 2 diabetes, even if they follow their diabetes care plans closely, may eventually need an injectable medicine such as insulin.
All type 1 diabetics need to take insulin to replace what their body is no longer making.
Myth: No one in my family has diabetes, so I am not at risk.
Fact: Healthcare providers are still unsure exactly what causes diabetes, although both family history/genetics and lifestyle factors may play a role. Genetics and lifestyle factors including, age, lack of physical activity, obesity, high blood pressure and ethnicity are thought to have an especially important role in triggering type 2 diabetes.5
Diabetes Basics Backgrounder
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes results when glucose can no longer be absorbed properly due to irregularities in levels of the hormone insulin that is produced in the pancreas. There are two types of diabetes.2
Type 1 Diabetes: Type 1 diabetes (formerly known as juvenile diabetes) is characterized by the body's inability to produce insulin. Why the body does not produce insulin is currently unknown. 2
Type 2 Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes (formerly known as adult onset diabetes) is characterized by a resistance to insulin; 90-95% of people diagnosed with diabetes are diagnosed with type 2. Type 2 diabetes is increasing among young people as the amount of overweight youth increases. 2
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes may include frequent urination, unusual thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, extreme fatigue and irritability.2
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include frequent urination, unusual thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, extreme fatigue and irritability, frequent infections, blurred vision, slow healing cuts and bruises, tingling/ numbness in the hands and feet, recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections.2
Prevalence and Cost of Diabetes
Diabetes impacts millions of people annually, with 1.6 million new cases of the disease diagnosed each year. While cancer and HIV/AIDS may seem more prevalent due to the resource and attention they receive, diabetes is actually the more common chronic disease in the U.S. with nearly 24 million Americans - 7.8 percent of the population - suffering from the disease.
On its current course, the number of people with diabetes is projected to nearly double to 44.1 million by 2034 due in large part to the aging of the baby boomer population and increased rates of overweight Americans and obesity.4
Diabetes is one of the costliest diseases in America, with total direct and indirect costs for diabetes and pre-diabetes estimated at $218 billion in 2007.
Understanding Diabetes Treatment & Management
Diabetes cannot yet be cured, but it can be managed. With the proper diet, exercise, regular blood sugar testing and treatment therapy, people living with diabetes can lead full and active lives.
When left untreated or poorly controlled, diabetes can have serious complications, including stroke, kidney disease, high blood pressure, blindness, nerve problems and amputations. If detected early and treated properly, complications can be prevented or delayed.2
Good blood glucose control, or glycemic control has long been established as the cornerstone of successful diabetes treatment, however many patients in the U.S. are not achieving recommended A1C targets, which are a measure of a person's average blood glucose control for the past 2 to 3 months.
Adequate patient self-management has been identified as a critical component for successful short- and long-term treatment of diabetes and its complications.7
For people living with diabetes, healthy eating, physical activity, blood glucose and one or more diabetes medicines including, insulin, pills and other injectable medicine to control blood glucose levels, are the basic management tools for diabetes.
Insulin therapy, discovered nearly 90 years ago remains one of the most significant discoveries in the field of medicine and continues to be a mainstay of diabetes treatment as a way to reduce the risk of developing serious complications.7
Despite the effectiveness of insulin treatment, several factors have been suspected to impact insulin usage, including needle anxiety, fear of injection pain and inconvenience coupled with psychological barriers to insulin initiation (e.g. social embarrassment).7
Insulin plays an important role in managing diabetes. To get the full benefits of insulin therapy, people with diabetes need to take it exactly as directed by their physicians. For many patients, it will be important to choose an insulin delivery method that works for their lifestyle, whether it be a vial and syringe or an easy-to-use insulin delivery device.
Insulin delivery devices are an integral part of diabetes treatment and the successful outcome of treatment today; however, the adoption rates among physicians and patients in the U.S. are still relatively low.
Today in the U.S only 17% of insulin units are delivered through insulin pens (durable, refillable or prefilled disposable insulin pens) compared to 95% and 88% in Japan and Europe, respectively, according to a September 2009 study.8
Today there are approximately 10 insulin delivery pens available on the market providing options to diabetes patients to help them actively manage their own health.8
Diabetes Impact: Multicultural & Generational Reach
Diabetes prevalence increases with age:
23.5 million or 10.7% of all people 20 years of age or older have diabetes
12.2 million or to 23.1% of people age 60 or older have diabetes2
Diabetes disproportionately affects minority communities in the U.S. including, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Alaskan Natives. The increasingly diverse population of people living with diabetes has created new variables for healthcare professionals to consider when treating patients to ensure they address the beliefs, attitudes and practices of each unique culture or background.
One in seven (14.7%) non-Hispanic blacks aged 20 years or older has diabetes though only one in nine has been diagnosed with the disease. This population is 1.8 times as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites aged 20 years or older, 6.6% of who have diagnosed diabetes.
One in ten (10.4%) Hispanic/Latino Americans aged 20 years or older has diagnosed diabetes. Among Mexican Americans one in nine (11.8%) aged 20 years or older are diagnosed.
One in six (16.5 %) Native Americans and Alaskan natives aged 20 years or older has diagnosed diabetes.
One in 13 (7.5%) Asian Americans aged 20 or older has been diagnosed with diabetes.2
© 2010 Novo Nordisk 142551 November 2010
1. Novo Nordisk Care. Accessed At:
2. 2007 National Diabetes Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control Web site.
3. NIH Fact Sheet: Type 2 Diabetes. Accessed at:
4. Huang et al (2009) Projecting the Future Diabetes Population Size and Related Costs
for the U.S. Diabetes Care, December 2009,Vol. 32, No 12, 2225-2229
5. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes.
Diabetes Care, Volume 33, Supplement 1, January 2010
6. Changing Life with Diabetes. Accessed at: www.changingdiabetes-us.com/ManagingDiabetes/TakingMedication/OvercomingBarriersInsulin/
7. Dall et al. The Economic Burden of Diabetes. Health Affairs. 29, NO. 2 (2010)
8. American Diabetes Association Web site. A1C. Accessed September 27, 2010