First things first. It’s important to know that there’s no cure for type 1 or type 2 diabetes. A healthy diet, exercise, and a good medication regimen can help help with symptoms, but diabetes never goes away. So how come some people with type 1 diabetes can get away with not taking insulin for almost a year?
Doctors refer to this period as the Honeymoon Phase of diabetes. It usually occurs after a type 1 patient has recently been diagnosed. During this time, a person’s blood sugar will return to normal levels, often without the help of insulin. The Honeymoon Phase typically lasts between eight months and one year. So, it’s easy to see why patients might think their diabetes has been “cured.”
How does it work?
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. It’s caused when the body’s immune system attacks islet cells in the pancreas, which prevents it from producing insulin. That’s why people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day. The Honeymoon Phase occurs after a person first starts taking insulin injections. Once the medication kicks in, the pancreas feels less pressure to produce insulin. As a result, the islet cells that haven’t been attacked begin to make insulin on their own, just like in a person without diabetes. Unfortunately, a person’s immune system will eventually target these cells, too, meaning diabetes symptoms will return, and the patient will have to start relying on injections again.
Can people stop their diabetes treatment during the Honeymoon Phase?
Doctors typically discourage type 1 patients from completely stopping their insulin injections during this time. Every case is different, so people will work with their healthcare providers to find a personalized treatment plan that works best. The good news is that most people need fewer insulin injections during this time.
How can we make the Honeymoon Phase last longer?
That’s the burning question most patients–and their doctors–want to find out. Unfortunately, since there’s no cure for diabetes, there’s also currently no way to make the Honeymoon Phase last forever. However, watching your sugar levels and following your doctor’s insulin recommendations have been shown to help. A new study also suggests regular exercise can extend the Honeymoon Phase up to a few weeks.
Photo courtesy of FranksWorldPics on Flickr