We sat down witth Vanita Aroda, the Scientific Director for the MedStar Community Clinical Research Center, who considers the prevailing misconceptions that could be setting more up for diabetes, plus what’s trending in treatment therapies.

Who is the most at-risk for developing diabetes and why? 

Vanita Aroda: Great question. Diabetes is a heterogeneous disease with many risk factors and influences. Being overweight or obese, a family history of diabetes, belonging to certain race or ethnicities—e.g., Asian, Hispanic, African Americans—having prediabetes (blood sugar values that are higher than normal, but not high enough to meet the criteria for diabetes), metabolic syndrome, a history of gestational diabetes and lifestyle factors that contribute to obesity are just a few of the risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.

There is not a single cause for diabetes—both genetic and environmental influences are important, but in general, conditions that worsen insulin resistance (obesity, for example), or defects in insulin secretion (genetic factors, for example), all contribute to risk of diabetes.

“It is important to treat diabetes now, in order to minimize the years of exposure to high blood sugar that can then contribute to end-organ damage.”

What is the biggest misconception about diabetes and how do you work to overcome that? 

We see two very different types of misconceptions with diabetes.

One is when patients see diabetes as a stigma, or self-failure, when the reality is there are many influences to one’s risk of diabetes. It is important to educate patients that reasons for having diabetes are complex, and that diabetes is treatable. Education is extremely empowering and allows patients to take better control of their diabetes.

The second type of misconception we see is that sometimes patients think it is okay to hold off on treatment, since many people with diabetes may not feel immediate symptoms from their diabetes. Yet it is important to treat diabetes now, in order to minimize the years of exposure to high blood sugar that can then contribute to end-organ damage (e.g., kidney, nerves, eyes). Here again, education is the key to overcome these barriers. 

How do you think management tools and technology will provide better care for the patient? 

Tools and technology provide wonderful avenues for connecting all of us, and for making available a wealth of information, instantaneously. Technology has the power to provide an important interface between the patient’s disease state (blood glucose data), patient’s lifestyle choices (activity and nutrition tracking) and medication plan (communication with diabetes care team).

Advances in technology will allow us to make smarter, or more informed, treatment decisions in diabetes, will allow patients to be more connected with their extended diabetes care teams, and will facilitate patients’ own education about their condition and treatment plan.