A whole range of issues start to crop up when diabetes is left untreated. Excess sugar in the blood can lead to more persistent yeast infections (yeast love sugar). High blood sugar can also affect blood flow, which leads to slower healing for sores and wounds. Over time, the condition can lead to Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), which causes blood vessels to narrow, lending to a condition called peripheral neuropathy that results in a person not feeling pain. And without a sense of pain after an injury or development of an ulcer, the patient may not realize the wound is progressing – amputation may even be required to save him or her from sepsis.
For now, I manage my diabetes through a combination of technologies. I use a blood test meter to measure my glucose levels at least five times a day. I use a pump that is attached to my abdomen to deliver frequent doses of insulin throughout the day. And now I also use a continuous monitoring device that measures my subcutaneous blood sugar levels to help the insulin pump work more effectively.
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).
As many doctors watch their diabetic patients slowly decline while implementing traditional methods of care, it’s only natural for them to pursue therapies that actually work to stall and even reverse many of the debilitating comorbidities associated with diabetes. In challenging economic times, it’s difficult for physicians to be able to afford specialized treatment protocols, but they’re constantly on the lookout for ways to provide additional services that have been proven effective.
Apart from these medications, treating diabetes effectively means taking a well-rounded approach: You’ll need to eat well, exercise, and manage stress, because all these factors can affect your blood sugar levels. Staying healthy with diabetes also requires caring for yourself — like protecting your feet, practicing oral hygiene, and tending to your mental health.
The word podcast has by now become completely untethered from its namesake—the iPod. Analytics that were once uncapturable have become fairly comprehensive (downloads from Apple Podcasts surpassed 50 billion this year) and specific (Chicago streams more podcasts on Spotify than any other U.S. city does), which has brought new money and possibility to the form. Recipes for how to create a decent series were invented through trial and error, and thousands of producers now understand what makes our ears stand up: cults, cold cases, politics, feminism, and relationships, but most of all: stories.
The same thing applies to the chronic back and leg pain so many people have. There may be a few pain signals coming up from tired muscles or joints toward the brain. Those signals go through nerve centers called “pain gates.” Those “gates” are where the signals are mixed with other sense data, feelings, and body states such as tension. In people with chronic pain, the gates amplify the signals over and over until the pain is severe. They do this because the brain thinks the person needs to be warned away from a real threat, such as taking a hand out of the fire so it doesn’t burn.
David Spero is author of Diabetes: Sugar-coated Crisis, (New Society, 2006) and The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness (Hunter House, 2002). He writes for Diabetes Self-Management and Arthritis Self-Management magazines regularly and blogs at www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog. See more of David’s work at www.davidsperorn.com.
Benari, an Ashkenazi Jew, doesn’t fall into that category. But Cummings and other bariatric experts I spoke to said that surgery should be a possible option for any person whose diabetes isn’t improving. Cummings himself is currently working on a clinical trial in India of bariatric patients with BMIs as low as 25. And he expects similar trials will come down the pipeline.
Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, the more common type, your body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood. You can also have prediabetes. This means that your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Having prediabetes puts you at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes.