Type 2 Diabetes: Thirteen Years Later
In a few months, the diagnosis of my type 2 diabetes becomes a teenager – yes, that’s right, thirteen years managing this condition. Over time, not only has my personal management of the condition evolved, but so have the medication options for people living with type 2 diabetes as new insights into the disease process have been discovered. Yet, there are still challenges that need to be addressed.
Diet, exercise and medications
For the first couple of years after my type 2 diabetes diagnosis, I managed solely on diet changes and regular exercise with consistent success. Then I added metformin briefly until digestive issues commonly associated with the first-line therapy became a burden. About five years ago, after some health issues unrelated to diabetes popped up and were corrected, I went back on metformin with better results and have remained on it ever since.
For the last couple of years, I struggled quite a bit to maintain a hbA1C (A1C) level that was acceptable to both myself and my doctor. I was stressed out working full-time and going to school part-time, and on top of that underwent physical therapy for osteoarthritis beginning in both knees that sidelined me from the types of exercise I enjoyed. Just as school wrapped up and was back to full exercise, I experienced an incredible loss that created more stress and some tough decisions that resulted.
All this led to adding a GLP-1 inhibitor into the medication plan earlier this year. Within a few months, I saw great improvement in both how the GLP-1 worked to lower blood glucose. However, I experienced some uncommon side effects of the medication, and decided to sideline that drug for awhile with a strong recommitment to managing my type 2 diabetes with diet, exercise and metformin.
Blood glucose testing
One outstanding barrier for people with type 2 diabetes remains access to adequate amounts of test strips per month. Knowledge is power, and being able to track blood glucose trends is important in managing this condition. Without testing 2-3 times daily, I would never know that symptoms such as fatigue and frequent urination were not simply because of disrupted sleep or increased water intake, but instead an indication that blood glucose levels were creeping higher. (How do I know that? I went several months with only testing once or twice a week, and that is when my A1C level reached its highest level, requiring the addition of the GLP-1 inhibitor).
The other issue is the stigma surrounding type 2 diabetes and the idea that the disease process is entirely based on lifestyle. While I admit that my twenties were full of less than stellar diet and (lack of) exercise choices, the primary care physician who diagnosed me called it “the short end of the genetic stick.” Now, I wonder about an autoimmune element as part of that genetic snafu since I also deal with an autoimmune thyroid disorder. Take a look at me now, and you would never know that I struggled with my weight in my twenties, and even slid back a bit a couple times in my thirties. This leads to a different picture of type 2 diabetes than people expect, but I wish that picture did not even exist.
Treatments change, so do people. It’s been a long and rough road the past thirteen years to create better health for myself, but having a purpose in fighting for others with type 2 diabetes makes the journey a little easier.
Have you experienced any foot complications from diabetes?