Good diabetes management can help slow the progression.
You’re adhering to your prescribed treatment plan for diabetes. You’re taking your medications as your doctor prescribed, and you’re doing your best to stick to healthy habits. The improvements in your blood sugar control were obvious at first. Now, however, it seems like your blood sugar is getting harder to control, even though your habits haven’t changed. This is just how type 2 diabetes progresses over time.
“Diabetes is considered a progressive condition,” says Tara Kim, MD, endocrinologist. “Unlike the flu that has a clear-cut beginning and an end, diabetes can progress or regress on a spectrum.” The point is, don’t get discouraged. It’s a natural part of the condition.
What do doctors know about how type 2 diabetes progresses?
Your body naturally changes over time, and your diabetes can, too. Whenever part of your body isn’t working optimally, it can get strained and weaken as time passes. Often, other parts of the body may incur damage as well, or they may become strained from trying to compensate for the other organ.
One example of how type 2 diabetes progresses is insulin resistance. This is when your muscle tissue, fat tissue, and liver stop responding properly to the available insulin. The pancreas is producing insulin, but your body isn’t using it. When this happens, your pancreas starts producing more and more and more insulin to try to compensate.
Eventually, the pancreas may become tired and less able to produce insulin. With less and less insulin, your blood sugar may become harder to control. At a certain point, you may need to start using insulin injections to manage your diabetes, even if you didn’t need it before.
How do you recognize diabetes progression?
If your diabetes is getting worse, you may notice symptoms like:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Feeling tired and lethargic
- Blurry vision
- Increased infections (such as urinary tract infections)
- Unstable blood sugar levels or high A1C levels
If you’re noticing these symptoms, you may want to bring it up with your doctor. These symptoms may suggest that your current diabetes treatment plan is not working as well as it should. Tweaking your treatment plan may help get your blood sugar levels back under control. The goal is to slow the progression and reduce the risk of future diabetes complications.
Remember, you should be checking in with your doctor on a regular basis, whether or not you are having symptoms of diabetes progression. They can help you catch potential concerns early and optimize your treatment plan.
Tara Kim, MD, is an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health.