Almost 1.5 million Ontarians have diabetes. Most can lead healthy lives if they:

  • eat a balanced diet
  • exercise regularly
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • manage blood glucose levels, taking insulin if needed

Ontario offers a number of programs to help people with diabetes improve their quality of life and avoid complications.

If not treated or properly managed, diabetes can cause a number of serious health problems. These include heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, eye disease, erectile dysfunction (impotence), and nerve damage.

Resources

The Diabetes and You Tool Kit – A diabetes tutorial with easy-to understand fact sheets and short videos to help you manage your disease. You can order the Kit through Service Ontario.

Diabetes fact sheets, organized by topics are available to download in 13 languages. Watch these diabetes videos for tips from experts to help you lead a healthier life.

Types of diabetes

There are three types of diabetes.

  • Type 2 diabetes: In most cases, this type develops in adulthood (although it now affects growing numbers of children). If you have Type 2 diabetes, you may not be able to manage your condition with lifestyle changes alone. You may also need to take medication or insulin.
  • Type 1 diabetes: Far fewer people in Ontario have this type of diabetes. In most cases it is diagnosed during childhood and teen years. While the cause is unknown, it can’t be prevented. Everyone with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin.
  • Diabetes during pregnancy: This is a temporary condition called gestational diabetes. A mother with gestational diabetes and her child are both at an increased risk of diabetes in the future.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90% of diabetes in the province.

Who is more likely to get diabetes?

You are more likely to get diabetes if you:

  • are of Aboriginal, Asian, South Asian or African descent
  • are overweight (especially if you carry most of your weight around your middle)
  • have a parent, brother or sister with diabetes
  • have health complications associated with diabetes, such as eye, nerve or kidney problems
  • gave birth to a baby weighing more than 4 kg (9 lbs)
  • had diabetes while you were pregnant
  • have a history of impaired glucose tolerance, impaired fasting glucose or pre-diabetes
  • have high blood pressure
  • have high cholesterol or other high levels of fats in the blood
  • use glucocorticoid medication
  • have been diagnosed with any of the following conditions:
    • polycystic ovary syndrome
    • acanthosis nigricans (darkened patches of skin)
    • schizophrenia
    • obstructive sleep apnea

Diabetes symptoms

You can get diabetes even if you don’t have any of the common risk factors in the list above.

If you are developing diabetes or high blood glucose, your body will often show signs like:

  • feeling more thirsty
  • frequent urination
  • a sudden weight gain or loss
  • low energy or feeling more tired than usual
  • blurred vision
  • frequent or repeat infections
  • injuries, such as cuts and bruises, that are slow to heal
  • tingling or no feeling in your hands or feet
  • trouble getting or maintaining an erection

If you have symptoms like these, talk to your health care provider.

Living with diabetes

To help you manage your diabetes, the ministry provides a variety of services and resources. These include:

  • routine tests for diabetes
  • diabetes passport
  • Diabetes Education Programs
  • self-management workshops
  • driving with diabetes
  • Centre for Complex Diabetes Care
  • financial aid for supplies

Routine tests for people with diabetes

If you’re living with diabetes, make sure you have these three tests regularly. They can help you manage the disease and avoid complications.

  • HbA1C blood test: this test measures sugar control, and should be administered at least once every six months
  • LDL-C blood test: this test measures your “bad” cholesterol, and should be administered at least once a year
  • retinal eye exam: this test helps you understand how diabetes affects your eyes and  should be taken at least once a year

It’s also important to monitor your blood pressure regularly and have your feet checked by your family health care provider at least once a year.

Talk to your doctor or other health care provider if you’re not sure if you’ve had these tests.

Diabetes passport

To learn more or to withdraw from the program, call ServiceOntario at:

  • 1-800-291-1405
  • TTY 1-800-387-5559

You can also get a Diabetes Passport and Goal Card (PDF), available in 16 languages. These records important information like key test results, medications, diabetes education sessions, and more. Print copies are also available to order through ServiceOntario.

Diabetes Education

Managing your own day-to-day health care can help you relieve diabetes symptoms, prevent or treat complications and improve the quality of your life. The ministry funds group classes and individual counseling to:

  • teach you the skills you need to manage the disease
  • put together a personal health plan for you

All of this will help you:

  • reduce or prevent complications
  • decrease foot problems
  • shorten or eliminate hospital stays
  • improve long-term blood sugar control

Find a diabetes education program near you

Get a dietitian’s advice

OHIP pays for visits to registered dietitians working in a Diabetes Education Program in acute care and community care settings. Ask your doctor or health care provider to find out if you qualify. If not, you may have private insurance coverage that will cover the cost of seeing a registered dietitian in private practice.

You can also call Telehealth Ontario, a free service where you can speak to a registered dietitian about nutrition and healthy eating. Call toll-free at 1 866 797 0000.

Self-management

Attend a free self-management workshop to help manage diabetes, chronic pain, or chronic disease

Self-management workshops are available across the province free of charge. They are designed to give you the confidence and skills to make important lifestyle changes. These changes will help you manage your diabetes, chronic pain, or chronic disease and avoid complications. Note that:

  • anyone with a chronic condition can attend
  • family and other caregivers can also attend
  • each workshop consists of 6 sessions
  • sessions usually take place once a week for 2.5 hours

To learn more about self-management workshops in your community, please contact the self-management organization within your Local Health Integration Network:

Driving with diabetes

If you have diabetes and drive a vehicle, you may be at risk of losing consciousness or awareness due to low blood sugar.

To learn more about driving with diabetes, talk to your doctor or visit the Ministry of Transportation and Diabetes Canada.

If you have complex diabetes

If you have health concerns related to your diabetes, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or vision problems, your doctor might refer you to a Centre for Complex Diabetes Care. A Centre can help you:

  • get specialized diabetes education management and treatment
  • get care from specialists when you need them
  • monitor your health and get the best support and treatment possible

Talk to your health care provider to see if a referral is right for you.

Get financial aid

These are the most common services and supplies the ministry helps fund and provide for people with diabetes. You must have an OHIP card to qualify. You must also meet any additional program conditions.

Financial aid for eye care services

OHIP covers the following eye care services for select groups:

  • individuals age 65 or older are covered for one routine eye examination every 12 months and any required follow-up
  • individuals younger than age 20 are covered for one routine eye examination every 12 months and any required follow-up
  • individuals with diabetes between age 20 and 64 are covered for a complete eye examination by an optometrist or doctor every 12 months, plus any required follow-up

Medically necessary eye care services provided by doctors are covered by OHIP for all diabetes patients.

For more information:

Financial aid for prescription drugs and supplies

If you are on a provincial social assistance program, or you are age 65 or older, the Ontario Drug Benefit plan covers:

  • most types of insulin
  • oral medications (hypoglycemics)
  • blood testing strips (based on diabetes treatment)

If you are age 65 or older and using the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan, you might have to pay a $100 annual deductible up front. After that, you will pay $6.11 for each prescription. The funding you receive is based on your household income. To learn more:

If your drug costs are high compared to your income, the Trillium Drug Program covers:

  • most types of insulin
  • oral medications (hypoglycemics)
  • blood testing strips

If you qualify, you will be asked to make four up-front payments a year. Payments are based on your household income. To learn more:

Financial aid for insulin supplies

The Assistive Devices Program (ADP) covers the following insulin supplies for select groups:

  • Patients age 65 or older who inject insulin every day receive up to $170 each year to purchase needles and syringes to inject insulin
  • Patients with type 1 diabetes who have been assessed by a diabetes education program registered with ADP can receive:
    • the full cost of an insulin pump listed with the program and sold to the patient at the ADP-approved price of $6,300.00
    • 4 payments of up to $600 each year to buy supplies needed to make the pump work

To learn more call the ADP program office toll free at 1-800-268-6021 (in Toronto 416-327-8804).

Financial aid for testing supplies

The Ontario Monitoring for Health Program covers the following testing supplies for select groups:

  • Ontarian residents who use insulin or have diabetes while pregnant and have no other funding for these supplies can receive:
    • 75% reimbursement for the cost of blood glucose meters up to a maximum of $75 once every 5 years
    • 75% reimbursement for the cost of lancets and testing strips up to a maximum of $920 once every 5 years
    • 75% reimbursement for the cost of talking blood glucose meters up to a maximum of $300 once every 5 years, if letter from doctor confirms visual impairment
  • Ontario residents who are visually impaired and use insulin or have gestational diabetes and have no other funding for these supplies can receive up to 75% of the cost of talking blood glucose meters (for a maximum payment of $300)

Your first claim form submitted to the Monitoring for Health Program must be signed by a doctor or nurse practitioner to confirm that you use insulin or have gestational diabetes. Seniors aged 65 or older, social assistance recipients or Trillium Drug Program clients can only submit to this program for lancets and/or a blood glucose meter.

The program is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care and administered by the Canadian Diabetes Association. To learn more:

Financial aid for foot care

OHIP covers foot assessments for all Ontario residents.

OHIP does not pay for services such as the clipping or trimming of toenails.

To learn more call ServiceOntario toll-free at 1-800-268-1154 (in Toronto at 416-314-5518).

Updated: October 21, 2021
Published: May 14, 2014