How is diabetes treated?

Diabetes is a chronic condition. It has no cure, but you and your health care team can control it together. The likelihood of having symptoms from diabetes or developing damage to your body from diabetes is directly related to how well your diabetes is controlled. Treating it often requires a medicine called insulin and a change in lifestyle. Type 1 diabetes always requires medication.

If you have been eating poorly or not exercising, these are important areas to work on. In fact, good control of your diabetes might be impossible without proper eating and exercise. If you are overweight, losing weight will help. Your doctor may also start you on medications. They may be pills or shots of insulin. The goal of treatment is to keep your blood sugar levels as close as possible to normal levels. It is important for you to know the signs of high or low sugar. Your doctor can help you with this. Controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are also important.

Food and Nutrition

American Diabetes Association
Learn how to eat well to manage your diabetes. Select Nutrition and Recipes on the menu bar on the left. Find recipes, exchange lists, hints for eating out, exercise tips, and more.
Diabetes Diet, Eating, & Physical Activity
(National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse-US National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases-NIDDK)
On this page find out how what you eat can affect your diabetes.
Diabetic Gourmet Magazine
(Gourmet Connection)
Look up a recipe or read news and articles in Diabetic Gourmet Magazine, "dedicated to diabetic dining and healthy living." Use the search box on the right or select Diabetic Recipe Archive from the list on the left.
Diabetic Recipes
(OnTrack Diabetes)
A unique collection of heart healthy recipes and menus can be found.

Physical Activity and Exercise

(American Diabetes Association)
This section of the American Diabetes Association covers fitness. Topics include overcoming barriers, types of exercise, getting started, and nutrition. Learn how physical activity and exercise can help you feel better both physically and mentally.
Diabetes and Exercise
(American Academy of Family Physicians)
Read the pamphlet, Diabetes and Exercise.


Your doctor will do routine blood tests to help get a picture of how well your diabetes is controlled. Your doctor may also have you measure your blood sugar at home. This is done with a tiny machine called a glucometer and a drop of blood.

Tips to Help You Stay Healthy
(National Diabetes Education Program)
Read about the Hemoglobin A1c Test in Know Your Blood Sugar Numbers... 2 Tests to Measure Blood Sugar Control.
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Know Your Blood Sugar Numbers: Use Them to Manage Your Diabetes
(National Diabetes Education Program)
Gives tips on how to check your blood sugar numbers in a question-and-answer format.
Blood Glucose Meters
(Children with Diabetes)
Read some reviews of Blood Glucose Meters.

Good Quality Diabetes Health Care

Your treatment goals are based on evidence (data) from clinical research studies and the interpretation by diabetes experts. If you can reach these goals, the risk of damage to your body from diabetes is much less. Good quality diabetes care is a team effort between you and your health care team. A good health care team will help you reach these goals. As a patient you should expect and get nothing less.

Recommended health care services for people with diabetes:

  • Visit your health care provider at least every three months. At each visit get your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar tested and feet examined. You should discuss your own blood sugar records, all medicines, your eating and physical activity with your doctor or nurse.
  • Every 3 months: get an A1C test and foot exam.
  • Every 6 months: get a dental exam.
  • Once a year: get a dilated eye exam, total cholesterol, LDL Cholesterol, HDL Cholesterol, Triglycerides, microalbumin (protein in urine), flu vaccine (each fall).
  • Once a lifetime: Pneumovax vaccination.

Sources of Guidelines for Diabetes Care

Diabetes Care, Vol. 25, Supplement 1, 2002
(American Diabetes Association)
Read the medical research evidence “Standards of Medical Care for Patients with Diabetes Mellitus” in Diabetes Care, Vol. 25, Supplement 1, 2002.
Guiding Principles for the Care of People With or at Risk for Diabetes
(National Diabetes Education Program)
Learn more about caring for people with diabetes and pre-diabetes, their families, health care providers, and insurers.
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Diabetes Education

Good health care services teach people how to manage their own diabetes each day. To help control your diabetes between doctor visits you should:

  • eat healthy
  • keep physically active
  • take your medication
  • test your blood sugar
  • check your feet each day
  • stop smoking
  • take care of your eyes
  • take care of your teeth and gums
  • control your cholesterol (less than 200 mg/dl)
  • control your blood pressure (less than 120/80 mmHg)
  • cope with stress, emotions, and depressed feelings
American Diabetes Association
To find out about diabetes education programs and events in South Carolina, select Community, Workplace & Local Events. from the menu on the left. Then look for What's Happening Locally. Links to descriptions about community-based programs and national campaigns are also in this section.
American Association of Diabetes Educators-AADE
Find a certified diabetes educator through a professional organization. On the American Association of Diabetes Educators-AADE site, select Find an Educator from list on the left; then from the map, select South Carolina or the state you need.

Are there other treatments I can try?

Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies for Diabetes
(National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse)
Read the NIH publication, Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies for Diabetes.

To learn more:

4 Steps to Manage Your Diabetes for Life
(National Diabetes Education Program)
This pamphlet provides four ways people with diabetes can care for themselves. Recommended for those who have been recently diagnosed or those who want to know about the disease.
Your Guide to Diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2
(National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)
Read the pamphlet, Your Guide to Diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.
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Newly Diagnosed
(Joslin Diabetes Center)
If newly diagnosed with diabetes, read the Newly Diagnosed section.

next » What health problems can develop with diabetes?

Written by: Barbara Carlson, M.L.S.
Last Modified: Monday November 04, 2019 11:54 AM