This post appeared recently in the ProCOR list.
As a medical resident I have encountered an interesting case that raises the question of reversibility and education of the pre/early diabetic group.
The case is of a 38-year-old male that presented to a screening physical examination without any complaints apart from the hardships of life. Past medical history is significant for recent diagnosis of hypertension for which he receives a calcium channel blocker. Family history is positive for type 2 diabete with his father, no coronary syndromes in his family, and his lipid profile is unremarkable. Physical exam reveiled an obese young man (BMI of 33) with controlled blood pressure and the rest of the exam was unremarkable. His initial fasting glucose was >200mg% and soon after HbA1c came back as 12. The patient denied any diabetic related symptoms. The patient was very reluctant to start any kind of diabetic regiment and strongly insisted on a sugar free diet and weight reduction only strategy. The patient went home with his own idea of managing his newly diagnosed diabetes. He did not appear for later follow ups.
But we DID meet again, two months afterwards. This time the patient is with a BMI of 27. He explained to me that he was so shocked from the diagnosis. He just started running around the block and eating a very restricted vegetarian diet. His HbA1C was 6 and fasting glucose levels were normal, and he did return to eating sugar containing foods.
Now he insisted he doesn’t have diabetes. Does he? Was he cured? Did he go back to the pre-diabetic phase? Or is he overt diabetic only controlled by diet? Was the decrease in weight that much of an influence? Apperantely so.
As a resident in the usual hospital environment, Dan has probably been taught that diseases can only be treated with drugs and/or surgery. Coincidentally, these are the acts to which doctors have exclusive rights and for which they can charge high fees. He was shocked, SHOCKED to discover that a patient might know how to treat his own disease without the help of the vaunted American “health care” system and that what he had been taught in the hospital has very little relevance to outpatient practice.
Dan has learned a valuable lesson which he should apply to his future practice. Today most of the fatal diseases are diseases of lifestyle and the only definitive treatment is lifestyle change. Blood glucose, blood lipids, blood pressure, etc. are all markers of lifestyle in the vast majority of cases, not diseases to be treated with drugs until lifestyle has been optimized. There is increasing evidence that some of these markers may actually be protective responses to nutritional stress analogous to a fever in response to an infection. Obviously there are varying genetic predispositions to the effect of self-destructive lifestyles but as they say, genes load the gun, environment pulls the trigger.
So, yes, Dan’s patient did cure himself of Type 2 diabetes and probably hypertension as well. He probably doesn’t need any drugs.
Now if we could only get all doctors to treat lifestyle diseases with lifestyle change before prescribing drug of doing operations we could save hundreds of billions of dollars in disease care costs, close many hospitals, shut down many drug companies and many doctors would have to make a living actually talking to patients. Isn’t that the essence of being a professionial?