There is no cure for diabetes. It’s a chronic condition that must be managed for life. This seems odd, given all the modern medical technology we have at our disposal. We can insert heart pacemakers, perform liver transplants, even adapt to bionic limbs, but coming up with a replacement for the islets that produce insulin in the pancreas appears to be out of reach for now. There is something about the pancreas that makes it difficult to fix, which is part of the reason pancreatic cancer remains so deadly.
Glucagon is a hormone that causes the release of glucose from the liver (for example, it promotes gluconeogenesis). Glucagon can be lifesaving and every patient with diabetes who has a history of hypoglycemia (particularly those on insulin) should have a glucagon kit. Families and friends of those with diabetes need to be taught how to administer glucagon, since obviously the patients will not be able to do it themselves in an emergency situation. Another lifesaving device that should be mentioned is very simple; a medic-alert bracelet should be worn by all patients with diabetes.
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.
^ Kyu HH, Bachman VF, Alexander LT, Mumford JE, Afshin A, Estep K, Veerman JL, Delwiche K, Iannarone ML, Moyer ML, Cercy K, Vos T, Murray CJ, Forouzanfar MH (August 2016). "Physical activity and risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and ischemic stroke events: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013". BMJ. 354: i3857. doi:10.1136/bmj.i3857. PMC 4979358. PMID 27510511.
In type 2 diabetes, there also is a steady decline of beta cells that adds to the process of elevated blood sugars. Essentially, if someone is resistant to insulin, the body can, to some degree, increase production of insulin and overcome the level of resistance. After time, if production decreases and insulin cannot be released as vigorously, hyperglycemia develops.
Inhalable insulin has been developed. The original products were withdrawn due to side effects. Afrezza, under development by the pharmaceuticals company MannKind Corporation, was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for general sale in June 2014. An advantage to inhaled insulin is that it may be more convenient and easy to use.
Certain drugs may also help to control pain. These include anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, indomethacin, and many others. While some of these are sold over the counter, they can have side effects, most notably gastrointestinal bleeding. A newer anti-inflammatory, celecoxib (Celebrex), may have fewer gastrointestinal side effects.
Type 2 DM is primarily due to lifestyle factors and genetics. A number of lifestyle factors are known to be important to the development of type 2 DM, including obesity (defined by a body mass index of greater than 30), lack of physical activity, poor diet, stress, and urbanization. Excess body fat is associated with 30% of cases in those of Chinese and Japanese descent, 60–80% of cases in those of European and African descent, and 100% of Pima Indians and Pacific Islanders. Even those who are not obese often have a high waist–hip ratio.
Exercise is often one of the best treatments for pain. Responding to an entry on pain in the Diabetes Self-Management blog, a Canadian man with Type 2 diabetes reported, “I have cured my back pain completely since starting weight-lifting exercises 18 months ago. I do horizontal and inclined bench presses. I started with 50 lbs and built to 150 lbs. The benches provide complete back support.”
Diabetic ketoacidosis can be caused by infections, stress, or trauma, all of which may increase insulin requirements. In addition, missing doses of insulin is also an obvious risk factor for developing diabetic ketoacidosis. Urgent treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis involves the intravenous administration of fluid, electrolytes, and insulin, usually in a hospital intensive care unit. Dehydration can be very severe, and it is not unusual to need to replace 6-7 liters of fluid when a person presents in diabetic ketoacidosis. Antibiotics are given for infections. With treatment, abnormal blood sugar levels, ketone production, acidosis, and dehydration can be reversed rapidly, and patients can recover remarkably well.
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.
You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are age 45 or older, have a family history of diabetes, or are overweight. Physical inactivity, race, and certain health problems such as high blood pressure also affect your chance of developing type 2 diabetes. You are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you have prediabetes or had gestational diabetes when you were pregnant. Learn more about risk factors for type 2 diabetes.