With millions of Canadians suffering from type 2 diabetes, there is an urgency to find new ways to prevent, treat, and cure the disease. Science has made strides in catching up with type 2 diabetes management, partly thanks to the success of diabetes clinical trials.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Diabetes involves an abnormal relationship between food, specifically sugars, and the hormone insulin. Normally, sugar is taken up into cells for healthy functions with the help of insulin. However, in patients with type 2 diabetes, there is a loss of cell sensitivity to sugar. This loss of sensitivity means sugar accumulates in the bloodstream instead of going to where it needs to go and do what it should be doing. This accumulation can damage cells, tissues, and organs.
Symptoms and risk factors
Many patients with type 2 diabetes are asymptomatic (without symptoms). Common signs of the disease include:
- frequent urination,
- unintended weight loss,
- blurred vision,
- slow-healing sores,
- and infections.
The following are associated with a higher risk for type 2 diabetes:
- age > 40 (high risk),
- family history (high risk),
- Aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian, and African ethnicity,
- history of heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol,
- and overweight and obesity.
Preventing diabetes can be more complex for some, but it is helpful to maintain a healthy high-fiber diet and to exercise appropriately and regularly. Additionally, avoiding alcohol and managing stress are important factors in diabetes prevention. More recent research demonstrates the importance of good sleep hygiene as well.
Fortunately, for individuals who have already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, diet and exercise can still improve blood sugar levels. Diabetes patients are required to regularly monitor blood sugar, especially if they are active since exercise can drastically reduce blood sugar levels and put individuals at risk for a diabetic coma. Depending on the diabetes severity, patients may have to monitor their blood sugar a few times a week or as often as three times a day.
Patients with type 2 diabetes are also often placed on drug therapy since lifestyle modification becomes less effective as the disease progresses. Oral medications often work by stimulating insulin release from the pancreas or by preventing the liver from releasing sugar. If oral medications are unable to adequately lower blood sugar levels, patients may be placed on insulin therapy.
The role of clinical trials
Given the number of Canadians affected by type 2 diabetes and the importance of drug therapy in the long-term management of this disease, there is a growing demand for clinical research investigating the effectiveness of varied drug therapies. Patients who participate in diabetes clinical trials receive benefits such as access to new treatments before they are widely available, and the opportunity to undergo informative assessments of overall health and fitness. Furthermore, patients benefit from the knowledge that their participation is helping to advance the understanding of this disease for the betterment of millions of Canadians.