The long term prospects for a person with diabetes are not set in stone. In many cases, they are a matter of choice.
There are many possible complications that come with diabetes.
Those taking insulin can experience a low glucose level. Hypoglycemia can lead to several ill effects. In extreme cases, coma is possible. At milder levels, muscle weakness or headache are common.
Diabetic acidosis may result from missing an insulin dose or as the result of infection or other cause. It can be life threatening. It’s most common in Type 1 diabetes, but may occur in those who suffer from Type 2 as well.
Insulin helps regulate blood glucose levels, but it also plays a role in burning body fat. When the insulin level drops drastically, the body starts burning fat, producing a characteristic ketone smell from the breath. The body tries to reduce the condition by inducing rapid breathing. But that strategy can only succeed to a certain degree.
Long term, diabetic retinopathy – a generation of the retina from damaged blood vessels – is another possibility. Kidney malfunction, as the kidneys come to filter less efficiently due to gradual destruction of the glomeruli, is also common.
But none of these conditions is inevitable, particularly today.
The possible long term effects of diabetes are very well known and there have been developed a number of strategies for dealing with them.
Accurate and careful self-care is the first line of defense. That keeps glucose and insulin levels where they should be, along with keeping the body fit to deal with the rigors of any problems that occur. It helps keep blood pressure in check to avoid long term complications from high blood pressure.
But there are longer term prospects on the horizon. Since diabetes is the result of lowered insulin production (Type 1) or inefficient use (Type 2) it can be adjusted by means other than drugs or diet. Note: there are other types of diabetes but these two cover over 95% of all chronic cases. Two of those are gene therapy or organ transplant.
Organ transplantation, in this case of a defective pancreas is an option for those who have Type 1 diabetes. Though a serious procedure, and not for everyone, the surgery has come a long way over the past 30 years, as has every other type of transplant. Immunosuppressive drugs are more effective to reduce the odds of rejection. Some gene therapy techniques are being developed to eliminate even the need for that.
Beyond being an adjunct in aiding immune system suppression, gene therapy can have a more direct role. Research is being conducted to correct autoimmune disorders, one type of which causes Type 1 diabetes. Even Type 2 diabetes sufferers have hope as well, though.
Gene therapy holds out the promise of being able to adjust the efficiency with which the body uses insulin, the characteristic of Type 2. Gene therapy may be able to affect the gene that controls the production of insulin beta cells.
Research is active and ongoing. There are good reasons to hope that in the years to come diabetes may be treated more effectively or even eliminated entirely.