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.
One participant in an online discussion on the Diabetes Self-Management blog wrote, “I noticed that when I was doing something like reading an interesting book, or walking and talking with a friend, I was not consciously feeling pain.” Another wrote, “I keep my mind busy with genealogy [family history] during the day. I play sudoku and crosswords at night until I can fall asleep.”
When you have type 2 diabetes, your cells don't get enough glucose, which may cause you to lose weight. Also, if you are urinating more frequently because of uncontrolled diabetes, you may lose more calories and water, resulting in weight loss, says Daniel Einhorn, MD, medical director of the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute and clinical professor of medicine at the University of California in San Diego.
Without insulin, that extra sugar starts to hang out in your blood with nowhere to go. Just like with honey or sweet syrup, high concentrations of sugar causes the blood to thicken. Physiologically, this pulls fluids and water from other parts of the body into the bloodstream, causing swelling and dryness. Early symptoms of diabetes are relatively mild, including excessive peeing, dry mouth, itchy skin, hunger, fatigue, and blurred vision.
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.
To treat diabetic retinopathy, a laser is used to destroy and prevent the recurrence of the development of these small aneurysms and brittle blood vessels. Approximately 50% of patients with diabetes will develop some degree of diabetic retinopathy after 10 years of diabetes, and 80% retinopathy after 15 years of the disease. Poor control of blood sugar and blood pressure further aggravates eye disease in diabetes.
In addition to the problems with an increase in insulin resistance, the release of insulin by the pancreas may also be defective and suboptimal. In fact, there is a known steady decline in beta cell production of insulin in type 2 diabetes that contributes to worsening glucose control. (This is a major factor for many patients with type 2 diabetes who ultimately require insulin therapy.) Finally, the liver in these patients continues to produce glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis despite elevated glucose levels. The control of gluconeogenesis becomes compromised.