For a wellness festival, there was an unexpected amount of talk about the importance of suffering and pain. In one panel about addiction, the ultramarathoner Charlie Engle, who ran 30 marathons in his first three years of sobriety, told the story of his first son being born. “He was gonna save me,” Engle recalled, “and then six days later, after a crack binge, the police are searching my car, and I had to choose between living and dying. And I chose running ... I wanted to pound that part of me out and never visit it again.”
Insulin is a type of hormone made up of 45 amino acids, and it is important for signaling to the body’s cells to pick up excess sugar from the bloodstream. Normally, whenever you decide to drown yourself in a Big Gulp from 7-Eleven, the sugars in the soda will be absorbed through your stomach directly into your bloodstream. Insulin is pumped out by the pancreas, which acts as a signal that gives the thumbs up to your muscles and fat cells to throw a sweet rager with the soda you just dumped into your body. Everyone has a good time – until the party ends.
The pain of diabetic nerve damage may respond to traditional treatments with certain medications such as gabapentin (Neurontin), phenytoin (Dilantin), and carbamazepine (Tegretol) that are traditionally used in the treatment of seizure disorders. Amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep) and desipramine (Norpraminine) are medications that are traditionally used for depression. While many of these medications are not indicated specifically for the treatment of diabetes related nerve pain, they are used by physicians commonly.
If you google “diabetes cure” you are directed to websites like WebMD and the Mayo Clinic where you find information on diet, exercise, medication, and insulin therapy, but nothing about the cure. This lack of information may have to do with the fact that Americans spend $322 billion a year to treat diabetes, $60 billion a year on weight-loss programs, and $124 billion a year on snack foods. This is about 3% of the US economy! Because so many peoples’ livelihoods are supported by diabetes and its main cause, obesity, the viral effect of people getting cured and telling others is greatly diminished.
The first WHO Global report on diabetes demonstrates that the number of adults living with diabetes has almost quadrupled since 1980 to 422 million adults. Factors driving this dramatic rise, which is largely on account of type 2 diabetes, include overweight and obesity. The new report calls upon governments to ensure that people are able to make healthy choices and that health systems are able to diagnose, treat and care for people with diabetes.
Interestingly, research suggests anxiety may be tied to type 2 diabetes risk. According to a September 2016 study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, which measured levels of blood glucose and IL-6, a protein in the body that stimulates immune response and healing, found that people with with low inhibition — or attention control — were more likely to have type 2 diabetes.
Nerve damage from diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy and is also caused by disease of small blood vessels. In essence, the blood flow to the nerves is limited, leaving the nerves without blood flow, and they get damaged or die as a result (a term known as ischemia). Symptoms of diabetic nerve damage include numbness, burning, and aching of the feet and lower extremities. When the nerve disease causes a complete loss of sensation in the feet, patients may not be aware of injuries to the feet, and fail to properly protect them. Shoes or other protection should be worn as much as possible. Seemingly minor skin injuries should be attended to promptly to avoid serious infections. Because of poor blood circulation, diabetic foot injuries may not heal. Sometimes, minor foot injuries can lead to serious infection, ulcers, and even gangrene, necessitating surgical amputation of toes, feet, and other infected parts.
In the picture to the right you can see the lunch that I was unbelievably served at the 11th International Congress on Obesity in Stockholm 2010. This is a major international conference for obesity doctors and scientists. The food contains almost exclusively energy from sugar and starches, things that are broken down to simple sugars in the stomach.
Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common form (around 90% of all cases) and the one which is increasing the most. It primarily affects overweight people in middle age or later. It’s not uncommon for the affected person to also have a high blood pressure and an abnormal lipid profile. Gestational diabetes is a temporary special case of type 2 diabetes.
In animals, diabetes is most commonly encountered in dogs and cats. Middle-aged animals are most commonly affected. Female dogs are twice as likely to be affected as males, while according to some sources, male cats are also more prone than females. In both species, all breeds may be affected, but some small dog breeds are particularly likely to develop diabetes, such as Miniature Poodles.
Acute pain is a lifesaver. Without it, we would have to watch out all the time to keep from injuring or killing ourselves accidentally. This is why people with diabetes are advised to check their feet visually or manually every day: If a person has peripheral neuropathy, particularly if it causes numbness in his feet, the acute pain nerves in his feet may not be working, and if they aren’t, they can’t warn him about injuries or other, normally painful foot problems.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.