Common Misconceptions About Type 2 Diabetes


When you think of diabetes—type 2, specifically—what first comes to your mind? Is it: 

  • Complications?
  • Weight?
  • Ethnicity?
  • Eating habits?
  • Insulin usage including the use of insulin pumps?

If so, you’re in the same boat as many others who think about diabetes. Unfortunately, some others consider type 2 diabetes to be the kind of diabetes people bring upon themselves. But, type 2 diabetes is more complex than that and many misconceptions surrounding the disease, leading to stigma and shame associated with it. Here are ten things people get wrong about type 2 diabetes. 

10 misconceptions about type 2 diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes are “lazy” and “caused their disease” by eating too much sugar 

This couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s no one’s fault they were diagnosed with diabetes. It’s a hurtful stereotype that implies people “chose” to get diabetes. The guilt and shame associated with this misconception presents challenges in self-management by hindering diabetes-related behaviors such as taking medications, sticking with meal plans or even attending diabetes educational classes. To improve the perception of diabetes, it’s important to think about the language used to describe it. According to this paper by the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists, language lies at the core of attitude change, personal identity, bias and perception. For example, instead of referring to someone as “diabetic” call them a person with diabetes. The term “diabetic” labels someone as their disease. 

Sugar is not the cause of diabetes, however, consuming sugar in excess can lead to weight gain, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. However, weight is not the only risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a complex disease, with many underlying causes, including genetics, which can lead to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Anyone at any age can develop type 2 diabetes. 

You can’t eat sweets or carbs with diabetes 

You can eat anything if you have diabetes as long as it fits your personal management plan. People assume they have to give up their favorite foods in order to manage their blood glucose. But this isn’t true—it’s about managing portion sizes, adjusting medications and tracking how certain foods impact your blood sugar. People with diabetes are encouraged to see a certified diabetes educator or nutritionist to develop an eating pattern that’s conducive to their lifestyle. 

Also, the term “carbs” is a broad term, because different carbohydrates impact your blood glucose in different ways. For example, a food high in fiber and carbohydrate would have a better impact than food high in carbohydrate that contains simple sugars. Why? Because the fiber isn’t digested by your body. In fact, soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar and improve blood glucose levels and cholesterol. 

Type 2 diabetes isn’t a “serious” disease 

Type 2 diabetes is a silent disease until it’s not. Without proper treatment and continued high blood glucose levels, type 2 diabetes can cause serious complications such as retinopathy (blindness), kidney disease, neuropathy (nerve damage) and increase the risks of cardiovascular disease and stroke. While plenty of jokes about “diabetic foot,” preferably called foot ulcers, are made, it is certainly no laughing matter. Neuropathy is the most common foot problem for people with diabetes. The nerve damage done by neuropathy can lessen one’s ability to feel pain or injuries on the feet and cause poor blood circulation in the feet. Minor injuries can grow into foot ulcers, at which point if the ulcer infects the bone, amputation is likely needed. Therefore, if you have diabetes, it is important to be screened for complications periodically. 

Complications are inevitable 

With the above said, complications are avoidable with the correct treatment. Complications arise after long, chronic high blood sugar. If you’re fearful of complications, you’re not alone. Talking with your doctor or diabetes care and education specialist and creating a treatment plan that best suits your lifestyle can help alleviate those fears. When speaking with your doctor, explore the different kinds of medications available to people with type 2 diabetes. 

It’s not necessary to test blood glucose 

It’s absolutely important to test your blood glucose levels. As a patient, you need to know what’s impacting your blood glucose each day in order to make improvements on your A1C. For insulin-dependent people with type 2 diabetes, or those taking blood glucose-lowering drugs, knowing your blood glucose levels if you’re taking insulin could prevent severe hypoglycemia, also known as severe low blood sugar. For more information on how and when to check your blood sugar, read this quick guide. 

Switching from oral meds to insulin means you “failed” at diabetes

Metformin is the first method of treatment for people with type 2 diabetes. However, the disease is progressive and insulin may be required at some point. A 2018 study in Diabetes Technology and Therapeutics cited that there are around 150-200 million patients who need insulin and 40 to 80 million of those people have type 2 diabetes. In the article, the authors state another 20-30% of patients with type 2 diabetes will require insulin therapy due to beta-cell loss over time and delays in starting proper treatments. 

Unfortunately, insulin has been levied as a threat to patients with type 2 and the goal  “to get off insulin” is common within the community. Remember, insulin is a life-saving drug for people with diabetes who need it. There is no shame in making the switch from oral meds to insulin or using a combination of both to manage diabetes. 

Only type 1s use insulin pumps  

People with type 2 diabetes do have more challenges to getting diabetes tech devices that people with type 1 diabetes enjoy. However, it doesn’t mean those devices aren’t beneficial to those with type 2 diabetes. Type 1s and insulin-dependent type 2s benefit from the usage of insulin pumps. Insulin pumps allow for improved control of blood glucose by allowing users to get a steady dosage of insulin (basal insulin) throughout the day and night and dose enough insulin for mealtimes (bolus insulin). In addition to that, insulin pumps relieve people from injections. 

However, the Omnipod Insulin Management System takes it a step further and relieves patients from injections and wearing a tubed-pump. Omnipod is the only tubeless insulin pump available and provides up to 72 hours of nonstop insulin delivery. With “pod therapy,” patients can have their insulin administered discreetly with the help of their personal diabetes manager (PDM). People with type 2 diabetes are benefitting from pod therapy. Just ask Prince Blue, who’s A1C went down 10% after switching from insulin injections to Omnipod.

Your body isn’t making enough insulin

This isn’t always true. People with type 2 diabetes can still be producing enough insulin, however, that insulin isn’t used properly. This is called insulin resistance. It means your body’s cells such as your fat, liver and muscle cells, aren’t responding well enough to insulin to use glucose in the blood for energy. The pancreas will make extra insulin to keep blood glucose levels normal. However, as time progresses, the pancreas won’t be able to keep up with that level of insulin production. This leads to glucose building up in the blood and eventually prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. When you’re diagnosed, you’ll receive a C-peptide test to determine how much insulin your body is making and a decision will be made on if you should begin insulin therapy. 

Type 2 diabetes can be cured 

There is no cure for type 2 diabetes. Beware of any person or company who tries to sell you a miracle product with claims of a cure. While research has been done on remission to show it’s possible, studies such as the DiRECT trial indicate that it depends on the progression of diabetes and substantial weight loss. If you’re interested in learning more about if remission is possible for you, please consult your healthcare provider.

You can’t live a healthy and active life with diabetes

Don’t believe us? Just ask people within the type 2 diabetes community. In our life with type 2 stories section and in our #BeyondPowerful campaign, you’ll find the stories of people within our community who’ve shared how type 2 diabetes impacts their lives. From being diagnosed to experiencing complications, to dealing with the stigma and shame of diabetes—each person’s voice provides a unique perspective on how anyone can defy the misconceptions about type 2 diabetes and live a healthy life with it. 

Written By T'ara Smith, MS, Nutrition Education, Posted , Updated 09/05/23

T’ara was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in July 2017 at the age of 25. Since her diagnosis, she focused her academic studies and career on diabetes awareness and living a full life with it. She’s excited to have joined the Beyond Type 1 team to continue her work. Two years later, T'ara discovered she'd been misdiagnosed with type 2 and actually has latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA). Outside the office, T’ara enjoys going to the movies, visiting parks with her dog, listening to BTS and cooking awesome healthy meals. T’ara holds an MS in Nutrition Education from American University.