Diabetes Doesn’t Mean Repeating Family History Anymore
Houston (September 12, 2001) – In recent years, a noticeable shift has occurred in how physicians treat chronic diseases. Using new drugs and new therapies identified through ongoing research, patients with chronic diseases are increasingly able to maintain a good quality of life. One clear example of this is Type II Diabetes, often called adult onset diabetes.
Causes of Diabetes
Diabetes is a disease caused by the inability of the pancreas to release enough insulin (a hormone that regulates metabolism of blood sugar), and also the inability of muscle and fat cells to absorb sugar, which these cells need as fuel. Left untreated, diabetes can cause blindness, amputations, and kidney disease, in addition to exacerbating other conditions such as heart disease. According to the National Institutes of Health, diabetes affects more than 16 million people, and the vast majority of these people have Type II Diabetes. While this type of diabetes does tend to run in families – and thus genetic links are suspected – lifestyle factors are also a major cause. Even though diabetes is considered a chronic disease, it can be controlled and patients can go on to lead normal lives.
Controlling Risk Factors
P. Kay Champion, M.D., a board-certified Internal Medicine specialist and Endocrinologist, is a physician at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic’s main campus. Dr. Champion is optimistic about the prognosis for his diabetic patients. “In the last few years, we have made great strides in identifying the lifestyle factors that contribute to adult onset diabetes. Fortunately, patients have the power to control these factors. The biggest risk factor by far is being overweight. For example, a recent study looked at a group of patients at high risk for diabetes who ate healthy and exercised, and on average lost 14 pounds. Their risk of becoming diabetic was cut by 50%. This is compelling information for my diabetic and borderline diabetic patients. They are realizing that they have the tools to control this disease.”
Drug Therapies to Treat Diabetes
Dr. Champion is also encouraged by the recent progress in drug therapy. “In the last few years, we’ve found additional drugs that can help stimulate insulin production, drugs that can increase the absorption of sugar by muscle and fat cells, as well as drugs that inhibit sugar absorption in the intestines. Having drugs that work at different areas of sugar metabolism allows physicians to better control Type II Diabetes without the use of insulin. But for those patients that are insulin-dependent, a short acting inhaled insulin is being developed that should be ready in early 2003. This will allow insulin-dependent diabetics to replace some of their injections with a much more comfortably delivered form of insulin.”
Patients and Doctors Can Work Together to Control Diabetes
The good news is that patients who have seen older family members suffer with diabetes are not necessarily doomed to go down the same path. But, some patients haven’t gotten the message. Dr. Champion has a patient who has had diabetes for about 8 years, but hasn’t attempted to control it. “When your blood sugar is high, you don’t necessarily feel bad, and it’s hard to make lifestyle changes and take your medication. But this patient’s mother had an amputation and underwent dialysis due to complications from diabetes, and you would think that would motivate a person to do anything they could do to get their diabetes under control. Physicians need to inform these types of patients that with good diabetic control, they can avoid the problems their older relatives have suffered.”
For questions and concerns about diabetes, contact your primary care physician or call Kelsey-Seybold Clinic at (713) 442-0427.
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