Preventing and living with diabetes
Learn how to prevent diabetes and how to live with it if you’ve already been diagnosed.
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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.
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.
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)
- obstructive sleep apnea
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.
To learn more or to withdraw from the program, call ServiceOntario at:
- 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.
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
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.
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:
- Home and Community Care Support Services Erie St. Clair : Erie St Clair Chronic Disease Self Management Initiative
- Home and Community Care Support Services South West : South West Self Management Program
- Home and Community Care Support Services Waterloo Wellington : Waterloo Wellington Diabetes
- Home and Community Care Support Services Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant : Take Control Take Charge
- Home and Community Care Support Services Central West : Living a Healthy Life
- Home and Community Care Support Services Mississauga Halton : Maximize Your Health
- Home and Community Care Support Services Toronto Central : Healthy Living with Chronic Conditions
- Home and Community Care Support Services Central : Healthy Living Now
- Home and Community Care Support Services Central East : Living A Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions
- Home and Community Care Support Services South East : Living Well
- Home and Community Care Support Services Champlain : Living Healthy Champlain
- Home and Community Care Support Services North Simcoe Muskoka: North Simcoe Muskoka Self-Management Program
- Home and Community Care Support Services North East : Living Healthy Northeast
- Home and Community Care Support Services North West : Healthy Change
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.
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:
- call ServiceOntario:
- toll-free 1-800-268-1154
- in Toronto 416-314-5518
- visit OHIP coverage for eye care services
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:
- talk to your pharmacist
- contact your local social services agency
- visit Ontario Public Drug Programs
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:
- call toll free 1-800-575-5386
- visit Trillium Drug Program
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:
- call the Canadian Diabetes Association at 1-800-361-0796
- visit Canadian Diabetes Association
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).