The prognosis for a person with this health condition is estimated to be a life expectancy of 10 years less than a person without diabetes. However, good blood sugar control and taking steps to prevent complications is shortening this gap and people with the condition are living longer than ever before. It can be reversed with diligent attention to changing lifestyle behaviors.
Type 1 diabetes mellitus is predominantly a disease of the young, usually developing before 20 years of age. Overall, type I DM makes up approximately 15% of all cases of diabetes. It develops in approximately 1 in 600 children and is one of the most common chronic diseases in children. The incidence is relatively low for children under the age of 5, increases between 5 and 15, and then tapers off.
Visual impairment and blindness are common sequelae of uncontrolled diabetes. The three most frequently occurring problems involving the eye are diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. photocoagulation of destructive lesions of the retina with laser beams can be used to delay further progress of pathologic changes and thereby preserve sight in the affected eye.
Although this complication is not seen in pediatric patients, it is a significant cause of morbidity and premature mortality in adults with diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes mellitus have twice the risk of fatal myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke that people unaffected with diabetes do; in women, the MI risk is 4 times greater. People with type 1 diabetes mellitus also have 4 times greater risk for atherosclerosis.
Insulin is essential to process carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Insulin reduces blood glucose levels by allowing glucose to enter muscle cells and by stimulating the conversion of glucose to glycogen (glycogenesis) as a carbohydrate store. Insulin also inhibits the release of stored glucose from liver glycogen (glycogenolysis) and slows the breakdown of fat to triglycerides, free fatty acids, and ketones. It also stimulates fat storage. Additionally, insulin inhibits the breakdown of protein and fat for glucose production (gluconeogenesis) in the liver and kidneys.
Can type 2 diabetes be cured? In the early stages of type 2 diabetes, it is possible to manage the diabetes to a level where symptoms go away and A1c reaches a normal level – this effectively “reverses” the progression of type 2 diabetes. According to research from Newcastle University, major weight loss can return insulin secretion to normal in people who had type 2 diabetes for four years or less. Indeed, it is commonly believed that significant weight loss and building muscle mass is the best way to reverse type 2 diabetes progression. However, it is important to note that reversing diabetes progression is not the same as curing type 2 diabetes – people still need to monitor their weight, diet, and exercise to ensure that type 2 diabetes does not progress. For many people who have had type 2 diabetes for a longer time, the damage to the beta cells progresses to the point at which it will never again be possible to make enough insulin to correctly control blood glucose, even with dramatic weight loss. But even in these people, weight loss is likely the best way to reduce the threat of complications.
A healthy meal plan for people with diabetes is generally the same as healthy eating for anyone – low in saturated fat, moderate in salt and sugar, with meals based on lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and fruit. Foods that say they are healthier for people with diabetes generally offer no special benefit. Most of them still raise blood glucose levels, are more expensive, and can also have a laxative effect if they contain sugar alcohols.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Purified human insulin is most commonly used, however, insulin from beef and pork sources also are available. Insulin may be given as an injection of a single dose of one type of insulin once a day. Different types of insulin can be mixed and given in one dose or split into two or more doses during a day. Patients who require multiple injections over the course of a day may be able to use an insulin pump that administers small doses of insulin on demand. The small battery-operated pump is worn outside the body and is connected to a needle that is inserted into the abdomen. Pumps can be programmed to inject small doses of insulin at various times during the day, or the patient may be able to adjust the insulin doses to coincide with meals and exercise.
Unlike people with type 1 diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes produce insulin; however, the insulin their pancreas secretes is either not enough or the body is unable to recognize the insulin and use it properly (insulin resistance). When there isn't enough insulin or the insulin is not used as it should be, glucose (sugar) can't get into the body's cells and builds up in the bloodstream instead. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it causes damage in multiple areas of the body. Also, since cells aren't getting the glucose they need, they can't function properly.
Type 2 diabetes is due to insufficient insulin production from beta cells in the setting of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, which is the inability of cells to respond adequately to normal levels of insulin, occurs primarily within the muscles, liver, and fat tissue. In the liver, insulin normally suppresses glucose release. However, in the setting of insulin resistance, the liver inappropriately releases glucose into the blood. The proportion of insulin resistance versus beta cell dysfunction differs among individuals, with some having primarily insulin resistance and only a minor defect in insulin secretion and others with slight insulin resistance and primarily a lack of insulin secretion.
For people who want to avoid drugs, taking an aggressive approach to healthy eating plan and lifestyle change is an option. It isn't easy, but if someone is very committed and motivated, lifestyle changes can be enough to maintain a healthy blood sugar level and to lose weight. Learning about a healthy diabetes diet (a low glycemic load diet) can be an good place to start.