Diabetes Education and Management

What is diabetes? 

Diabetes mellitus is a disorder that affects how your body processes sugar (or glucose) in your bloodstream. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. It is an important source of energy for your body and your brain’s main source of fuel. However, too much glucose in your blood, especially over a long period of time, can lead to serious health problems. 

There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2..  Type 1 diabetes usually occurs during childhood. Type 2 diabetes, which is more common, can develop at any age, although it more often occurs past age 40.  You can also have prediabetes or glucose intolerance which means your blood glucose levels are higher than normal without qualifying as diabetic.  Prediabetes will often develop into diabetes without good intervention and management.

If you’re newly diagnosed with diabetes or have had it for some time, it’s important to learn all you can about the disease and how to manage it. A diabetes education program is important to keep you healthy, by learning ways to incorporate good diabetic care into your daily life.

How do I know if I have diabetes?

People with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes may not notice symptoms. Your MD may therefore screen for diabetes during a routine checkup.  Type 1 diabetes symptoms generally happen quickly, and are more severe. When symptoms are present, they can include:

  • Increased thirst and frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Frequent infections
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision

Why does diabetes have to be treated?

Diabetes can affect every organ in your body in addition to your cardiovascular and immune systems. While type 2 diabetes may remit with weight loss and lifestyle changes, type I diabetes cannot, as of yet, be cured.  More often, both types, once they develop, are life-long conditions.  

With good care, medication and lifestyle improvements, either type can be managed successfully. If however, diabetes is left untreated, and glucose levels are not well managed, there is a high risk of developing one or more potentially serious complications.

What is a diabetes education program?

It is a program intended to provide the education and necessary skills to help manage the disease. People who have accurate information and support to manage their diabetes have better outcomes and better overall health than people who do not.  

It’s important to enroll in a diabetes education program when you’re first diagnosed. However, it’s never too late to know more about managing your diabetes. Knowing more about diabetes helps you benefit more from doctor visits when health complications arise, and when changes are made in your treatment plan. 

Why is diabetes education important?

Education about this complex disease is important to help you learn to live with it successfully. Education can help you avoid the many serious complications of the disease. Studies of adults who have diabetes or prediabetes and completed a diabetes education program, found that they:

  • Had lower glucose levels and a lower A1C
  • Prevented or reduced complications from diabetes 
  • Improved the quality of their life
  • Had lower medical expenses

What’s included in a good diabetes education program? 

A high-quality, comprehensive education program with evidence-based standards, such as the Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) program, should include:

  • Understanding diabetes and diabetes treatment
  • Eating healthier, including meal planning and weight-loss strategies
  • Being physically active
  • Taking appropriate medications
  • Learning how to check your glucose, and learning proper use of blood glucose meters, insulin pens, insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors
  • Risk reduction for other health problems
  • Understanding how diabetes medications work, and understanding dosages, side effects, toxicity, and other concerns
  • Learning to cope with stress, depression, and other mental health issues
  • Learning to be empowered to manage your diabetes and overall health
  • Setting goals for behaviors that support self-management of diabetes and lead to improved outcomes
  • Learning problem-solving strategies to deal with psychological and social aspects of diabetes
  • Using culturally-sensitive and age-appropriate materials and learning approaches
  • Learning in a group setting

It is also important to choose a program that provides ongoing support after you complete the program. 

Will my insurance pay for diabetes education?

Individual health insurance often pays for diabetes education. Check with your insurance company to find out before enrolling. The program is covered if you have Medicaid. Medicare Part B will also cover diabetes self-management training (DSMT). You will need a diabetes diagnosis from a health care provider to get coverage for DSMT. 

Where can I learn about the best diet for diabetes?

There is no single “diabetic diet.” The most effective diet is a balanced diet which includes all the food groups.  A diet should also be low in sugar and trans fats, high in vegetables, some fruits, whole grains and lean meat, fish, and protein sources. You can learn about the best foods for your needs at diabetes education courses.

What’s the best diabetes education program?

There’s no one “best” education program or approach to learning about diabetes. Look for a self-management education program with well-qualified instructors who are trained in diabetes care. They should be licensed health care professionals (registered nurses, registered dietitians, pharmacists, and others) who have training in biology, social sciences, communication, counseling, and education.

The most comprehensive program is “Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support” (DSMES). It can be taught in a group setting or individually. It’s available in-person, online, or by phone. DSMES is effective because it’s geared to your individual needs, goals, age, and cultural background. It’s guided by evidence-based standards and led by well-trained diabetes educators.

Another excellent program is the “Diabetes Self-Management Program” (DSMP), a six-week (2.5 hours per week) group program developed by Stanford University. Topics include:

  • Ways to deal with diabetes symptoms, fatigue, pain, hyper/hypoglycemia, stress, and emotional problems such as depression, anger, fear, and frustration
  • Exercise for maintaining and improving strength and endurance
  • Healthy eating
  • Using medications effectively
  • Working more effectively with your doctors

There are several good online courses for self-study, including:

The Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California, San Francisco, https://dtc.ucsf.edu/types-of-diabetes/type2/

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) program. Visit https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/find-a-program to find a free, online diabetes education program near you. 

The ADA also offers many online resources at https://www.diabetes.org/.

One of the best sources of accurate information about diabetes is available from our team of specialists at Inland Endocrine. We can help you every step of the way, from diagnosis to treatment to effective diabetes management. Call for an appointment today. 


Mayo Clinic, 2020, Oct. 3. Diabetes. Retrieved 7-15-2021, {https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371444}

Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists. N.d. How Diabetes Education Helps Patients. Retrieved 7-15-2021, {https://www.diabeteseducator.org/practice/provider-resources/how-diabetes-education-helps-patients}

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2018, Dec. 18. Managing Diabetes. Retrieved 7-15-2021, {https://www.cdc.gov/learnmorefeelbetter/programs/diabetes.htm}Funnell, M., Brown, T., Childs, B., et. all. 2008, Jan. 31. Diabetes Care. American Diabetes Association. Retrieved 7-14-2021, {https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/31/Supplement_1/S97}


Medically reviewed by:

Jodi B. Nagelberg, MD, MHA

Dr. Jodi Nagelberg is an endocrinologist, with board certification in Internal Medicine. She also holds a masters in Health Administration and Policy. She joins TeleMed2U as Endocrinology Director and supports our mission to increase access to healthcare for patients everywhere.

Postgraduate: University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy Los Angeles, CA  Masters, Health Administration and Policy, 2011