There’s a Reason It’s Called a Diabetes Journey: T2D Progression
Last updated: March 2023
You may often hear people talk about their diabetes journey. The word "journey" may sound like a strange way to describe a health condition. But, in many ways, there's much truth to this. One part of the diabetes journey involves a concept called diabetes progression.
What is diabetes progression?
Diabetes progression describes your body's declining ability to make insulin. This happens because of your body's two basic insulin issues with type 2 diabetes: insulin resistance and insulin decline.
- Insulin resistance means that your body struggles to use insulin well.
- Insulin decline means that your body overworks, making extra insulin to counteract insulin resistance. By overworking, your body empties its insulin stores much more quickly than normal.
Progression impacts your treatment plan
These changes in your body mean you will see changes in your treatment plan over time. You may need insulin to replace what your body isn't able to make anymore. Because of this, it's important to avoid comparing your journey to others. It's not a fair comparison to you or them. Swapping notes is excellent support, but trying to be like someone else who has a unique journey is self-defeating.
Differences in exercise and eating patterns over time
Along with a changing treatment plan come changes in your eating patterns and exercise. Many people I meet are under the impression that type 2 diabetes management has two separate tracks: food and activity or medication. People with type 2 diabetes often hear that they will not need to rely on medication if they eat "right" and exercise. While that may be true in some cases, it's less likely the longer you live with diabetes.
Changes to your body's insulin-making abilities over time mean healthy eating patterns and activity will not have the same impact on your blood sugars decades into your diagnosis as they did in earlier years. Thus, medication becomes a more significant part of your diabetes journey over time.
Exercise and eating patterns still matter
But this doesn't mean eating well and exercising are no longer critical. They are - especially for your overall health and to lower your risk of diabetes complications. At any point in your journey, medications should be used to compliment your eating and exercise patterns, not replace them.
Diabetes progression does not equal diabetes complications
Diabetes progression can sound intimating. Too often, the term is used negatively and somewhat inaccurately to describe the development of complications of diabetes. But diabetes progression does NOT mean diabetes complications. I will repeat: diabetes progression does NOT mean diabetes complications!
I have met and worked with folks who have had type 2 diabetes for years and whose diabetes progressed to a point they needed insulin. But they had few if any, complications. Progression means that your body's ability to make insulin changes over time which can happen without complications developing.
Diabetes progression is natural and normal
Finally, diabetes progression is something everyone with type 2 diabetes will experience. By taking care of yourself and using helpful resources, you can slow diabetes progression. Still, you cannot stop diabetes progression completely.
Understanding that progression is a natural part of your diabetes journey will help you stay on top of your care. You will be better prepared to anticipate changes and be ready to make modifications to your treatment plan when needed!
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