Getting an MRI when you’re living with diabetes: what you need to know

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a popular medical technology used to diagnose diseases and track the effectiveness of treatments.

Doctors use MRI scans to accurately image parts of the body to determine the root cause of symptoms.

This article describes what people with diabetes need to know before having an MRI.

What is an MRI?

MRI scanners are machines that use powerful magnets, radio waves, and computers to generate detailed images of the body.

The MRI machine itself looks like a large tube or donut with open ends. The bed-like patient platform slides in and out of the open space in the center.

Another type of MRI is an open MRI. Instead of a patient tube, there is a wider opening which some people find less restrictive or claustrophobic.

A diagnostic radiologist will usually read the results. The radiologist will then pass the information from the scan to the doctor who first ordered the scan.

In most cases, getting an MRI will take anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour. The fastest scans take around 15 minutes and the longest scans are around 90 minutes.

Why would anyone need an MRI?

Magnetic resonance imaging is safe. It does not expose you to ionizing radiation or X-rays.

MRI images play an important role in helping doctors diagnose disease or injury. They can also help you track the progress of your treatment.

Your doctor may order an MRI to diagnose many problems, including:

  • Problems with circulation and the vascular system
  • Difficult to diagnose problems with the digestive tract
  • Heart or lung problems
  • Problems with the organs in the abdomen
  • Tumors or masses
  • Bone diseases, back problems and sports injuries
  • Brain disorders

What is the difference between an MRI and a CT scan?

MRI scans and computed tomography (CT) scans are two common types of medical imaging.

MRI scans use strong magnetic fields to produce images of areas inside the body.

CT scans are a series of X-ray images taken in quick succession. These images are combined to create cross-sectional images.

In general, MRI provides better resolution and contrast when imaging soft tissues, including the brain and some abdominal organs.

CT scans are much faster than MRIs and are often better at addressing lung and bone problems.

Can you get an MRI if you have diabetes?

People with diabetes can get an MRI.

Tell your medical team that you have diabetes in case special considerations or precautions are needed.

What should people with diabetes know before having an MRI?

Communication is the key! Ask your doctor if there is anything special you need to do to prepare for your diabetes. You should also ask the radiologist or MRI technician questions before starting the scan.

Blood sugar management is also an important part of preparing for an MRI.

Some people with diabetes find it easier to have an MRI in the morning. Normally, blood sugar is higher due to the Dawn phenomenon.

Schedule an MRI at a time of day when your blood sugar is higher than average. This is a good way to avoid having to stop the scan for low level treatment during the MRI exam.

For the same reason, it is best to avoid scheduling an MRI at mealtime if you can help it.

You will need to remove the insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor (CGM) you are wearing.

Most insulin pumps and CGMs are considered “MRI-safe” because they contain metals. The strong magnets in the MRI machine can damage or destroy these devices.

If you are using an implantable CGM such as Eversense, be sure to inform your MRI technician and healthcare provider. It is likely that the implant will need to be removed before the scan.

You will also be asked to remove any electronics or metal you have – this includes metal medical alert bracelets.

An MRI technician will be on hand to instruct you in breathing and help you stay still. It’s important to let them know if you feel your blood sugar is way out of range.

Don’t be afraid to speak up if your blood sugar is very high or low. You should be able to leave the MRI room to eat a snack or take your corrective dose of insulin if needed.

Do I need to fast before the MRI?

Your doctor or radiologist will tell you if you need to fast before your MRI. It’s worth asking to be sure.

Generally, you won’t be asked to fast for a long time before an MRI. A short fast of two to four hours before the test is slightly more common.

Whether fasting is needed often depends on the part of the body being imaged.

A fasting MRI is much more likely to be ordered if you have a scan of your digestive tract or adjacent organs in your abdomen.

Also, many people prefer not to drink too much fluid before an MRI scan to avoid having to go to the bathroom during the scan.

Can an MRI Affect Blood Sugar Levels?

While at least one study has linked receiving an MRI with a slight decrease in average blood glucose levels, there are currently no medical device warnings that relate to hypoglycemia.

There is also no evidence that getting an MRI will cause your blood sugar levels to spike.

Still, it’s always a good idea to make sure the person doing the MRI knows you have diabetes.

It’s also a good idea to know your own blood sugar before starting an MRI.


The MRI scan plays an important role in helping doctors diagnose illnesses and injuries, as well as tracking the progress of treatment.

MRI scans are very safe, including for people with diabetes.

However, it is important to tell your doctor and the person doing the MRI that you have diabetes so that they are aware of any special considerations.

If your MRI is scheduled in advance, it’s also a good idea to think about the time of day you get your MRI to avoid routine lows or highs.

Make sure you tell your doctor and the person doing the MRI if you have any medical equipment, such as pumps or CGM, as these will often need to be removed.

It’s also a good idea to ask if you need to fast or change anything in your food or water intake on the day of your MRI.

We hope these tips make you feel better knowing that getting an MRI is nothing to worry about if you have diabetes!

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