Diabetes is one of the most prevalent medical conditions among city dwellers in the modern age.
There are Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, with most patients falling into the latter category which is highly related to people’s lifestyles.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin accordingly. As a result, glucose piles up in the blood as it isn’t used as fuel for energy.
Traditionally, oral medications for Type 2 diabetes tackle the problems of insulin deficiency and insulin resistance in patients by increasing the amount of insulin produced by pancreas or facilitating the responsiveness of body cells to insulin.
The latest oral medicine has taken a different approach. By not focusing on insulin secretion and action, it does not add on the burdens to the pancreas.
Generally speaking, sugars, starches and carbohydrates in food would be broken down into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream.
When blood passed through glomeruli, which are microscopic blood filters in kidneys, most of its content is forced out, including glucose. While some glucose would be reabsorbed, excess of it would be excreted in the urine. That’s why there is sugar in Type 2 diabetes patients’ urine.
Sodium-glucose co-transporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors are new kind of oral medications that work by preventing the kidneys from reabsorbing glucose back into the blood.
It allows the lowering of the blood glucose levels and facilitates the removal of excess glucose from the body via urine.
Its supplementary benefits include assisting patients in weight and blood pressure control, since salts as well as excess energy fueled by glucose are pushed out of the body.
I believe there would be more new medicines to be used in combination with the existing ones in the near future, so that patients could be prescribed with the best treatment for coping with their illness and inconvenience in life.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 3.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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