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If you have been diagnosed with diabetes you probably have many questions and concerns about what is happening to you and what you can do to help yourself. Diabetes educators and other members of the diabetes education and management team can help you manage this disease.

Diabetes is a condition in which the body is not able to use carbohydrates (sugars and starches) properly. In order to use these sugars and starches to fuel the body, insulin which is a hormone secreted by the pancreas, is necessary. When you have diabetes, your body either has little or no insulin or the insulin that your body is producing is not able to do its work.

Anyone can get diabetes and the cause of diabetes can be complex; it depends on the type of diabetes that you have and it is usually not easily explained by any one single factor. We do know that for some types of diabetes there are multiple risk factors which include being overweight, having a family history of diabetes, being inactive and even being from a particular ethnic background. If you have diabetes the important thing to remember is that you can learn to manage it successfully.

There are 3 main types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas no longer makes insulin. Insulin is necessary for the body to be able to utilize the sugar that is in the blood as fuel. With this type of diabetes daily insulin injections along with control of carbohydrate foods is necessary to manage the blood sugars.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to its own insulin and/or it no longer makes enough insulin. This type of diabetes may be controlled by different means. All people with this type of diabetes will need to manage their food intake along with exercise and possibly some pills or combinations of pills. Some people with Type 2 diabetes will also require insulin injections to manage their blood sugars.

Gestational diabetes occurs only during pregnancy when the hormones of pregnancy cause insulin resistance. As a result blood sugars become higher and this extra sugar causes babies to grow faster than they should. This type of diabetes is frequently managed by controlling food intake and increasing physical activity; however sometimes injected insulin is required as well.

All types of Diabetes can be controlled. Well-managed diabetes allows the individual to carry on a full and healthy life. In order to manage diabetes it is important to learn about your diabetes and the "tools" you need to use in order to control blood sugars. The main "tools" include meal planning, exercise, medications/insulin and blood sugar testing. Diabetes management requires a balance between all of these things to be successful and how this balance is achieved may change over time. It is also important in diabetes to have good control of your blood pressure and of the blood lipids (fats) in your body.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes you need to see a specialized diabetes education and management team. The core of this team is a registered nurse, a registered dietitian and your physician(s). These health care professionals will have specialty training in diabetes and can help you manage your diabetes well. This specialized team will teach you the information you need to get started with diabetes management. They will also support you through the learning process that will enable you to become an expert in the management of your diabetes. Other health care experts such as registered social workers (a core team member in the care of children and youth), pharmacists, child life specialists, optometrists, foot care specialists, exercise specialists and others may also become part of your diabetes education and management team.

This website provides you with information about these specialty programs funded by or through the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in Ontario and can help you find a program near you.

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