Joslin Answers Your Questions
Joslin Diabetes Center experts answer commonly asked questions about diabetes monitoring, treatment, self-care, meal planning, and more.
Topic: Insulin and Diabetes Pills
Question: After taking diabetes pills for many years, I've started taking insulin. Does that mean I have type 1 diabetes and am going to have more problems?
Answer: Not necessarily. Type 1 diabetes, which accounts for about 10 percent of all diabetes, develops when the pancreas stops making insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin to survive. While type 1 diabetes occurs most often in children and young adults, anyone at any age can get type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is the more common form of diabetes, as about 90 percent of people diagnosed with diabetes have this type. Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, which means that cells in the body don't respond well to insulin, and blood glucose levels start to rise. In the early stages of type 2 diabetes, the pancreas responds by making more insulin. Eventually, though, the body can't make enough insulin to keep up with the demand. At this point, a healthy eating plan, physical activity, and perhaps diabetes pills are needed to control blood glucose levels.
Over time, type 2 diabetes progresses, and the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas decrease in number. As the number of insulin-producing cells becomes smaller and smaller, the blood glucose and A1C will start to rise, and people will need to add insulin to their treatment so that their A1C can stay in a safe range. If this is the case with you, it does not mean that you've failed with regard to your diabetes management; it just means that now your body needs supplemental insulin to keep your blood glucose levels at a safe and healthy range.
Even though you will now start taking insulin, it does not mean that you have type 1 diabetes. You still have type 2 diabetes, but you now need insulin to help manage it. Don't worry that you'll now have more problems because you're taking insulin. In fact, you'll probably have fewer problems! Unlike many of the diabetes pills that are available, insulinwhich is the most natural medicine there ishas practically no side effects. Its main side effect is low blood glucose (hypoglycemia), which can easily be avoided and treated. And you can even learn how to adjust your insulin dose yourself to better control your blood glucose levels.
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