Sugar Matters
November 19, 2013
Is diabetes curable?

I am frequently asked this question, and I have covered it before in our Sugar Matters column, but since it is so important, let’s go through it once again.{{more}}

One part of this question is easily answered in the negative: Type 1 diabetes is not curable at this time in medicine, unless you have a pancreas (or islet cell) transplant. Those procedures, of course, are not very often performed, are very expensive and usually reserved for people with Type 1 diabetes who have very, very brittle diabetic control to the point of endangering their lives frequently. So pertaining to life in StVincent and the Grenadines, Type 1 diabetes is not curable.

Now Type 2 diabetes is an entirely different beast. For many people, Type 2 diabetes can be “cured” through weight loss. I write the words “cured” in quotation marks, because even though you may no longer qualify as having diabetes, you do still carry the high risk of developing it again in future. Many people think of “cure” as something going away never to return, and that is not always the case here.

But back to the major point here. I had several people tell me that their doctor/nurse/family member etc told them that they would have diabetes for life and there was nothing to do about it besides take medication. THAT IS NOT CORRECT!!! I am not saying that everyone who loses five pounds will not have diabetes anymore. Some people will lose 50 pounds and still have it, but they will need a whole lot less medication at the very least.

Look at yourself and look around at those people you know who have diabetes. Chances are that most of you carry some extra weight, and most likely in the belly area, correct? Many people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight. No, it may not be 50 pounds overweight; it may be 10, 15 or 20. For me, it was the 25 pounds I gained halfway through my pregnancy, when I then tipped over into being diabetic.
For people who are carrying too much weight, losing it is the best and truly only way towards anything resembling a cure for Type 2 diabetes. Ever heard of those stomach stapling surgeries? Well, weight loss is one huge factor as to why diabetes goes away after the surgery. I have a number of patients actively losing weight. As they lose pounds, I have to decrease their medication, because they don’t need as much. Some of them get to where their glucose numbers are not in diabetic range anymore after stopping their medication, and so they technically do not have diabetes anymore. I lost my pregnancy weight so I do not have diabetes anymore.

HOW you lose the weight will be up to you, but I will say that diet changes are the absolute cornerstone of any weight loss program. Please incorporate exercise as well, because this helps tremendously in many ways, including improving your insulin sensitivity (another aspect of getting diabetes controlled or gone). But, unless you are running miles nearly every day, don’t expect to be able to keep eating what you eat now (the two rotis at lunch, washed down with sweet-sweet juice) and lose weight just because you take a nice stroll around the Botanic Gardens three times a week.

Until next week, stay safe and healthy, Vincies!

Anita Ramsetty, MD [email protected]

Medical Director, Endocrine Care Group

Tel: 843-798-4227