Ask the diabetes expert: Is diabetes non-reversible?

W.T.M. Why This Matters
Diabetes is a hot topic in Singapore, especially after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's 2017 National Day Rally speech highlighting the need to fight this disease. To help tackle this issue, we asked you, our readers, if you had any questions about diabetes that we could help get answers to. Here is one of them.

Q: Once diagnosed with diabetes, is it a non-reversible situation that you need to have medications all the way? Any chance of stopping medication totally if you're able to control with it with diet and more exercise?

A: Type II diabetes is a condition of inadequate insulin production or resistance of the body's cells to insulin. The development of diabetes is a gradual process that progresses from a glucose intolerance state called pre-diabetes, to diabetes and finally diabetes-related complications.

Once diabetes sets in it cannot be cured but that does not mean that medication is always needed. The aim of treatment is good control of the blood sugar levels, and this can sometimes be achieved by diet and exercise alone. Many diabetics have metabolic syndrome and are also obese. Losing weight can also help reduce insulin resistance improve.

Metabolic surgery, where we help patients lose weight and alter glucose metabolism, is another way we can reverse the progression of diabetes without the need for long-term medication.

Dr Melvin Look, Director of PanAsia Surgery, Consultant in Gastrointestinal and Weight Loss Surgery