Diabetes Type II (Part IV): When Insulin Stops Working

By: Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP
Salesian Cooperator

What happens in diabetes when your insulin stops working?

One could stop making insulin, slowdown in its production or fail to use its own insulin.

For example, glucose cannot enter the cells where it’s needed, so the amount of glucose in the bloodstream continues to rise. This is called hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

When blood sugar levels reach 180 or higher, the kidneys try to get rid of the extra sugar through the urine. This makes a person urinate more than usual. It also makes a person feel thirstier because of the water he or she is losing by urinating so much.

When a person loses sugar in the urine, it’s the same as losing energy because the sugar isn’t available for the cells to use or store. When this happens, a person might feel tired, lose weight, and feel hungry all the time.

High blood sugar affects all body parts; you could have blurry vision or skin, wound infections that don’t heal properly. High blood pressure can occur with diabetes. Excess blood sugar decreases the elasticity of blood vessels and causes them to narrow, impeding blood flow. This can lead to a reduced supply of blood and oxygen, increasing the risk of high blood pressure and damage to large and small blood vessels.

A serious problem that many Emergency room doctors see is ketoacidosis. This is when the body doesn’t have enough insulin to help convert sugar into energy, it often starts burning body fat instead. Burning too much fat for energy produces a byproduct called ketones. High levels of ketones can lead to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which can be life threatening if not treated quickly. DKA is more common in type 1 diabetes because the body has stopped making insulin.

Now that you have a glimpse of how sugar is absorbed, regulated and stored, and when this balance is tipped, we come to a better understanding that balancing your sugar intake and regulating your insulin production is essential to your health.

Next week we will discuss the risk factors of diabetes.

Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: Just briefly review the write up from this past month and make sure you understand the relationship between blood sugar and insulin.

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