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Diabetes Awareness Month: Understand the signs and how diabetes is diagnosed

Eleven million Canadians are living with diabetes or prediabetes. Chances are diabetes affects you or someone you know, and by 20302, at least one in 10 adults could have diabetes.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month and World Diabetes Day is recognized on November 14. It is important to understand the signs of diabetes, how to diagnose this disease, and how to effectively live with diabetes.

Types of diabetes

There are three major types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes

  • Type 2 diabetes (most common)

  • Gestational diabetes (occurs during pregnancy, and is usually temporary)

Type 1
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease and is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes can’t produce their own insulin (and can't regulate their blood sugar) because their body is attacking the pancreas. Currently, 10% of people living with diabetes have type 1[1].

Type 1 diabetes generally develops in childhood or adolescence but can also develop in adulthood. People with type 1 need to inject insulin or use an insulin pump to ensure their bodies have the right amount of insulin. 

Type 2
People with type 2 diabetes can't properly use the insulin made by their bodies, or their bodies aren't able to produce enough insulin. 90% of people living with diabetes having type 2 diabetes[2].

Type 2 is most commonly developed in adulthood, although it can also occur in childhood. According to the International Diabetes Federation, over 50% of type 2 diabetes is preventable by adopting a healthy lifestyle[3]. It can sometimes be managed with healthy eating and regular exercise alone but may also require medications or insulin therapy. 

Signs and symptoms
If you have any of the following symptoms, contact your health-care provider right away. If you don’t have symptoms but are over the age of 40, you can check with your doctor to be screened for diabetes.


Seeking Support
To do a quick check on your risk of diabetes, complete this questionnaire. (IMPORTANT: The result is not a substitute for actual clinical diagnosis.)

Here are just some of the ways you can work with your doctor or optometrist to detect diabetes[1]:

  1. Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test. This blood test does not need you to fast for some time. It shows your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. It measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. An A1C level of 6.5% or higher on two separate tests means that you have diabetes.

  2. Random blood sugar test. A blood sample is taken at a random time. No matter when you last ate, a blood sugar level of 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) (11.1 millimoles per liter (mmol/L)) or higher suggests diabetes.

  3. Fasted blood sugar test. A blood sample is taken after you haven't eaten anything the night before. A fasting blood sugar of 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) or higher on two separate tests suggests diabetes.

  4. Oral glucose tolerance test. A blood sample is taken after you haven't eaten anything the night before. The fasting blood sugar level is measured. Then, you drink a sugary liquid, and blood sugar levels are tested regularly for the next two hours. A reading of more than 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L) after two hours means you have diabetes.

  5. Routine eye exams. A comprehensive eye exam conducted by an eye doctor can help lead to early detection of diabetes (type 1 and 2). It can also reveal the effects of poor diabetes management to people living with diabetes, indicating a need for lifestyle and diet changes, better compliance with treatment, or medication modification.[2] Talk to your optometrist at your next scheduled eye exam. For more information on your benefits coverage for eye exams, please check out your benefits booklet.

Questions? We’re here to help. If you need more information, that is not already covered in your benefits booklet, contact OTIP Benefits Services at 1‑866‑783‑6847. You can also visit our Help Centre.






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