Take a Guess: What Are the Most-Asked Questions about Diabetes?

What happens when you dial 1-800-DIABETES?

That's the toll-free number for the American Diabetes Association's Center for Information and Community Support, where representatives are standing by to answer your questions about diabetes and Association programs and events. The Center responds to more than 300,000 inquiries annually by phone, email and online chat. We're proud to be a source of trusted information and support.

While every person who contacts us has a unique situation, we do see patterns among the questions that we get every day. So we thought we'd round up some of the most popular questions and answers—because, chances are, they have crossed your mind too.

I checked my blood glucose with someone else's machine and got 170. Do I have diabetes?

Home glucose meters cannot be used to diagnose diabetes. You must have a diagnostic test ordered by a doctor and performed in a laboratory with special reagents to determine whether you have diabetes. Anyone concerned that they might have diabetes should consult their physician or health care provider.

Are commercial diet plans (such as Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Atkins, etc.) good for a person with diabetes?

The Association does not distribute diets based on calories or endorse any commercial diet plans. However, healthful eating is a big part of a good diabetes treatment plan. Individuals should speak with a qualified nutritionist, dietitian or certified diabetes educator (CDE) to help determine if a diet is right for them. That said, the best diet is often one that achieves your desired results and that you can stick with.

How many carbohydrates can I have in a day?

A place to start is 45 grams of carbohydrate at a meal. You may need more or less depending on how you manage your diabetes. Your health care team can help figure out the right amount for you. Once you know how many carbs to eat at a meal, choose your food and the portion size to match.

What’s the best artificial sweetener?

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of the following artificial sweeteners: Saccharin, Aspartame (NutraSweet), Acesulfame-K (Sweet One) and Sucralose (Splenda.) The Association accepts the FDA's conclusion that these sweeteners are safe and does not recommend one over the others.

Can insurance companies turn me down?

The federal health care reform legislation that became law in March 2010 includes many new tools in the fight to stop diabetes. Once the provisions are fully in place, people with diabetes can no longer be denied insurance or forced to pay more for coverage simply because they have diabetes. Insurance companies will not be allowed to limit benefits or drop coverage when a person needs health care most. A diabetes diagnosis will no longer be a lawful reason to deny health care, ending the current system that sanctions such discrimination.

I don't have insurance but need to see a doctor/dentist/eye specialist. Can you help me?

The Association does not offer direct financial assistance or medical care, but we can refer you to programs that may help. For specific information on programs available in your area, please contact the Center via email or phone. Our representatives can also direct you to resources for free and low-cost eye and dental care.

My child's school has a nurse who travels to different schools and isn't always there. Aren't they supposed to have a nurse available all day?

Federal law provides the same protection to students with diabetes in all states. However, state laws and regulations determine who in the school setting is allowed to perform or assist with diabetes care. Families, health care providers and school staff must be familiar with these laws and regulations in order to create a comprehensive school care plan.

If you are facing challenges with your child's diabetes management at school, call the Center for Information and Community Support to be connected with the resources you need, such as our Safe at School program.

What do I need to do when traveling to a different country?

You can go anywhere and do almost anything when you have diabetes—it just takes a little planning. Before you travel, you should:

  • Have a medical exam to make sure your diabetes is in good control.
  • Consult with your doctor about changing the timing of your meals, medication or insulin.
  • Get a prescription from your doctor for insulin or oral diabetes pills.
  • Schedule immunization shots, if you need them, at least one month before you leave.
  • Contact the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) for list of foreign diabetes associations.
  • Get a list of English-speaking physicians in other countries from the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers.
  • Carry a "Diabetes Alert Card" or wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace that says "I have diabetes" to notify police, paramedics or hospital personnel in case of an emergency. Proper identification will help ensure that you receive the treatment you need.

These are just a few of the questions we're often asked about diabetes, day in and day out. Keep in mind that while our representatives are very resourceful, they are not medical professionals. You should always contact your health care provider for individual medical advice.

So the next time you have a diabetes-related question on your mind, give us a call at 1-800-DIABETES, send an email to AskADA@diabetes.org or visit www.diabetes.org to use the free "Chat With Us" instant-messaging tool.

Our hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, and we have interpreter services available in any language.

We're here to help!

Center for Information and Community Support