Over time, a prolonged exposure to high blood sugar can damage the nerves throughout the body — a condition called diabetic neuropathy. Some people may not have any symptoms of the damage, while others may notice numbness, tingling, or pain in the extremities. “At the beginning, [diabetic neuropathy] usually starts in the feet and then it progresses upward,” says Dr. Ovalle. Although most common in people who have had type 2 diabetes for 25 years or more, it can occur in people who have prediabetes as well. In some studies, almost 50 percent of unexplained peripheral neuropathy [in the extremities], whether painful or otherwise, turns out to be caused by prediabetes or diabetes, says Dr. Einhorn.
Your body naturally produces small amounts of this antioxidant. When taken in larger doses, it may help regulate blood sugar levels and ease nerve pain. One study found that people who took 600 milligrams daily had a 19% improvement in their diabetic neuropathy symptoms after 5 weeks. "Over the long term, alpha-lipoic damage may protect against further nerve damage," Vinik says.
Type 2 diabetes, which is often diagnosed when a person has an A1C of at least 7 on two separate occasions, can lead to potentially serious issues, like neuropathy, or nerve damage; vision problems; an increased risk of heart disease; and other diabetes complications. A person’s A1C is the two- to three-month average of his or her blood sugar levels.
Other studies have found that people with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes can go into remission through changes to their dietary and exercise habits. People who manage to achieve this with food alone will often express their excitement publicly by claiming they “cured” their diabetes with their diet. In reality, the likely put it into remission, though that remission can last a very long time.
People with glucose levels between normal and diabetic have impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) or insulin resistance. People with impaired glucose tolerance do not have diabetes, but are at high risk for progressing to diabetes. Each year, 1% to 5% of people whose test results show impaired glucose tolerance actually eventually develop diabetes. Weight loss and exercise may help people with impaired glucose tolerance return their glucose levels to normal. In addition, some physicians advocate the use of medications, such as metformin (Glucophage), to help prevent/delay the onset of overt diabetes.
In gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), sometimes called heartburn, stomach acid and partially undigested food move backward through the esophagus, escaping from the stomach and through the esophageal sphincter that normally prevents such backsliding. This can occur as a symptom of gastroparesis, says Hiroshi Mashimo, MD, PhD, a gastroenterologist at Harvard Medical School. “If the stomach doesn’t empty, it’s likely to reflux up,” he says. GERD may also result from diabetes-related nerve damage affecting the esophageal sphincter, Mashimo adds. One caution: Some diseases, such as a yeast infection in the esophagus, can masquerade as GERD, so don’t brush off symptoms. We can’t treat the gastroparesis or esophageal sphincter problems that contribute to GERD, but antacids and other medications can help to reduce or neutralize stomach acids (see “PPIs the Right Way,” below).
While scientific controversy still exists over whether a cure for diabetes even exists, the possibility is still bright with current advances in technology. Cutting-edge technologies like stem cells therapies and regenerative medicine are pushing the envelope, and may hold high promise for a potential cure to diabetes, but there’s also still room for advanced oral-based pharmaceuticals to help in the battle against diabetes. Chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes can certainly draw big investments, something we see not just from the above companies but from a well-funded startup called Intarcia Therapeutics that we covered a few years ago when it had raised $759 million. It has now taken in $1.6 billion and is STILL in stage 3 clinical trials more than three years later. In other words, you need more than bright ideas to cure diabetes, but a lot of money to bring these therapies to market.
Dietary factors also influence the risk of developing type 2 DM. Consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks in excess is associated with an increased risk. The type of fats in the diet is also important, with saturated fat and trans fats increasing the risk and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat decreasing the risk. Eating lots of white rice, and other starches, also may increase the risk of diabetes. A lack of physical activity is believed to cause 7% of cases.
There is a risk that those who attempt it and fail could end up worse off, speculates Annie Hoang, a registered dietitian at Sunnybrook. An individual’s metabolism might switch into “starvation mode,” reducing the amount of energy needed at rest, she explains. That means some patients could regain all the weight they lost – and more – if they stop doing intermittent fasting.
People with diabetes are unable to control the level of sugar in their blood, usually due to a breakdown in how their bodies use the hormone insulin. It’s not completely clear how obesity can contribute to diabetes, but it is known that excess weight is associated with chronic inflammation and a dysfunctional metabolism. And these factors in turn make it easier for someone to stop responding to the presence of insulin as easily as they once did. So by using surgery to help very obese people with diabetes lose weight, the logic goes, you can indirectly treat or prevent the condition. But doctors such as David Cummings, a senior investigator at the University of Washington’s Diabetes & Obesity Center of Excellence, are pushing back against this way of thinking.
Nerves help orchestrate this digestive tour de force, says Bragg, by telling the muscles what to do. Uncontrolled diabetes, though, can damage the nerves, leading to some GI missteps. “It has to do with hyperglycemia [high blood glucose],” says Bragg. “We don’t know the exact mechanism.” We do know that blood glucose control can both prevent and improve GI dysfunction.
Innovation in technology is not just fuelling advances in diabetes treatments though. I know it will accelerate the path to the cure. And this is what unites people with type-1 diabetes, researchers, our charitable supporters and funders. I am convinced one day we will consign type 1 to the history books and no one will ever receive this life-changing diagnosis again.
Type 2 DM is characterized by insulin resistance, which may be combined with relatively reduced insulin secretion. The defective responsiveness of body tissues to insulin is believed to involve the insulin receptor. However, the specific defects are not known. Diabetes mellitus cases due to a known defect are classified separately. Type 2 DM is the most common type of diabetes mellitus.
For her part, St Clair thought she was inquiring about a technical glitch. Her brother—the brother who along with three other siblings had gifted her the DNA test for her birthday—wasn’t showing up right in her family tree. It was not a glitch, the woman on the line had to explain gently, if this news can ever land gently: The man St Clair thought of as her brother only shared enough DNA with her to be a half-sibling. In fact, she didn’t match any family members on her father’s side. Her biological father must be someone else.