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How Can I Avoid Taking Insulin?

My healthcare provider says that I have type 2 diabetes. Does this mean I'm going to need insulin shots? Does everyone with diabetes eventually end up taking insulin? How can I avoid needing to take insulin?

Answer

Everyone who is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes needs to take insulin because they stop producing insulin altogether. Those with type 2 diabetes continue to produce insulin, but are not as sensitive to it, causing blood sugar to rise. They may also not produce enough insulin to keep their blood sugar in the normal range.
 
As blood sugar rises, the pancreas (the organ that makes insulin) tries to produce more insulin to counteract the high blood sugar. This process can continue for many years. It is thought that high blood sugar plus the constant overproduction of insulin may damage the cells that produce insulin and they eventually begin to wear out.
 
Oral medications work in several ways, including making the cells of the body more sensitive to the insulin available and causing the pancreas to produce more insulin. Often, these medications are sufficient to keep blood sugar under control for many years. However, if the amount of insulin made by the body decreases too much or stops altogether, oral medications will not work as well and injected insulin will be needed to control blood sugar.
 
Not everyone will need to take insulin. The number of people with type 2 diabetes who take insulin (with or without oral medication) is between 15 percent and 27 percent. Because high blood sugar is toxic to the cells that produce insulin, the best way to preserve their functioning is to keep blood sugar as close to normal as possible.
 
Diet, exercise, proper medication, and working closely with your healthcare provider are all tools you can use to keep blood sugar under control. Well-controlled blood sugar not only helps to prevent the complications of diabetes, but also can slow the decline of insulin-producing cells and delay the need to take insulin.
 
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