3 Common Misunderstandings About Type 2 Diabetes Progression
Last updated: December 2021
The words diabetes progression often strike fear into those living with type 2 diabetes. It’s a scary term, made even scarier when it’s used inappropriately to intimidate you into improved diabetes self-care.
Diabetes progression is all about insulin
Diabetes progression describes your body’s declining ability to make insulin. This happens to everyone with type 2 diabetes, but at different rates. Overall, the body's declining ability to make insulin is a slow process.
Understanding misconceptions about type 2 diabetes progression
Often, I find diabetes progression is misunderstood. And when some of these misconceptions are cleared up, understanding progression can actually be a helpful piece of knowledge on your diabetes journey. Let's break down three common misunderstandings about type 2 diabetes progression.
1: Your current diabetes plan will work for years
If we know your body makes less insulin over time, then this expectation is an unrealistic one. In fact, understanding that your treatment plan will change is powerful. It can help you create conversations with your provider about your management options in a timely way. You may end up having healthier blood sugars and lower risks of complications as a result. It also means you may be less likely to see medication changes as a negative, a mindset that leads to misunderstanding number two.
2: Needing multiple medications means you failed
The belief that reliance on multiple type 2 diabetes medications is a result of not taking care of yourself is absolutely a myth. There are no defined stages of type 2 diabetes progression, like other chronic diseases. At times, your diabetes may be defined as "insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes" (meaning you use insulin) or "non-insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes" (meaning you do not use insulin).
Other than that, everyone is pretty much under the same big umbrella diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. A need for more medications means your diabetes may be more progressed than others (your body has a lower ability to make insulin than others). That doesn’t mean you didn’t take care of yourself. It just means your body’s needs are different. And that’s okay!
3: Your diabetes is better managed than someone using insulin
Healthy diabetes management is not defined by your treatment plan. It’s defined by your glucose levels, along with your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It’s defined by your daily activities to manage diabetes. And, I would argue, it’s also defined by your social support and connections. Does your management plan allow you to maintain these social connections, or are you so strict with yourself that your feeling of community is suffering? All too often, insulin is described to those with T2D as a last resort when "all other options fail." This gives it an intimidating feel. In reality, it’s just a different treatment option.
A reminder about your type 2 diabetes journey
Insulin has benefits and drawbacks just like any other medication used to manage diabetes well. It is NOT an accurate way to determine how well someone’s diabetes is managed. It's important to remember that everyone's body has different needs, and just because your diabetes treatment journey doesn't look the same as someone you know, doesn't mean you're failing.
What were common misunderstandings that you had about type 2 diabetes when you were diagnosed?
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