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Monday, November 7, 2011

Actos: Is it Safe?

By Daniel Barry

Diabetes is a condition that affects many people throughout the world. Currently about 170 million people suffer from this disease, and many more have hypoglycemia, a related condition that sometimes develops into diabetes. Diabetes appears in two forms: type I and type II. Although the two types manifest similarly, they are caused by different mechanisms in the body.

Both types of diabetes involve high sugar in the blood and low sugar in the internal organs and muscles. Primarily the liver and brain experience the most dramatic symptoms when operating under low sugar. The liver is the primary storage facility for sugar, so low sugar in the liver will eventually lead to drastic consequences for other organs. The brain only accounts for about 2% of the body's mass, but consumes 20% of the calories. This means that low glucose will affect the brain quickly and severely. When the brain does not receive adequate sugar, confusion, coma or even death can occur, within a surprisingly short time. Initially confusion is the result because higher brain functions in the frontal lobes are affected more than lower brain functions in the hippocampus and hypothalamus.

The difference between type I diabetes and type II deals more with the cause than the consequences of high blood sugar and low organ and muscle sugar. Sugar in the blood is regulated by pair of hormones - insulin and glucagon. Insulin lowers blood sugar and moves sugar to the organs and muscles, while glucagon does the opposite.

In a type I diabetic, the body does not produce insulin at all, or at least not in meaningful amounts. While this is deadly if not treated, treatment is relatively straightforward. As long as the diabetic takes regular insulin shots, he or she will be able to function relatively normally.

Type II diabetes is a bit more complex. The body still produces insulin, albeit in reduced amounts. However, the primary problem is not the production of insulin, but the way the cells in the organs and muscles respond to it. Cells develop a resistance to insulin such that injecting insulin will not have much effect. Treating type II diabetes usually involves some sort of diet and exercise regimen, with a goal to reduce insulin resistance, and allow the body to actually use all the sugar floating through the bloodstream.

However, the diet and exercise required to keep blood sugar levels in check in a type II diabetic in turn require a high amount of discipline and inconvenience. Therefore, drug makers have been developing an alternative. Actos is supposed to reduce insulin resistance, and it does, but there are several Actos side effects that patients should be aware of. In fact, side effects have caused such damage that Actos lawsuits have been filed.

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