Carrying extra weight is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. In fact, 90% of people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. Many people understand that maintaining a healthy weight helps prevent this costly metabolic disease. But did you know that weight loss surgery can help improve symptoms of diabetes or even reverse the condition altogether?
Numerous studies explore the relationship between weight and diabetes. It’s a popular topic among health care providers because the burden of diabetes continues to increase. Effective treatment options improve quality of life for millions of Americans and reduce the strain of diabetes on our health care system.
“Weight loss surgery is one of the most promising solutions for addressing diabetes,” says Dr. Kevin Wasco, a general surgeon and co-director of the ThedaCare Bariatrics program.
Raising Diabetes Awareness
November is American Diabetes Month. It’s a time to highlight the struggles of people living with diabetes. It also offers an opportunity to educate people about the realities of this largely preventable disease that affects over 38 million Americans.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease that prevents your body from maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. People who have type 1 diabetes produce very little insulin or none at all. With type 2 diabetes, either your pancreas can’t produce enough insulin or your body stops responding to insulin the way it should. Type 1 diabetes is often genetic, while type 2 diabetes results from lifestyles factors such as diet and living a sedentary lifestyle.
Without treatment, diabetes can cause many health issues. High blood sugar damages organs, nerves, and tissues throughout the body. It can also lead to kidney problems, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, and vision issues, to name a few. This helps explain why diabetes cost Americans $412.9 billion in 2022 alone.
Weight Loss Surgery for Diabetes
There isn’t a way to reverse or prevent type 1 diabetes, but studies show that lifestyle changes and weight loss can reduce symptoms and even reverse type 2 diabetes. Some interventions have better outcomes than others, with weight loss surgery leading the charge.
Weight loss surgery describes a variety of surgical interventions that help people lose weight. People who qualify include those with a BMI of 40 or higher, as well as people with a BMI of 35 or higher with at least one other significant health condition, such as type 2 diabetes.
“We see incredible results in improving and often reversing type 2 diabetes in the patients we serve,” Dr. Wasco says.
ThedaCare offers two types of weight loss surgery:
Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass: The most common and successful surgery at ThedaCare, this procedure restricts the size of the stomach by partially bypassing the small intestine. It provides the fastest and most complete loss of excess weight.
Gastric Sleeve Resection: Sometimes a better choice for people with significant medical problems, this procedure removes approximately two-thirds of the stomach. It also allows for future procedures if a person regains weight.
On average, people will lose a total of 125 to 150 pounds within one year or later after weight loss surgery. Nearly 75% of patients maintain their significant weight loss after five years.
Weight loss directly influences health outcomes. The ThedaCare Bariatrics program has seen a 98% improvement or resolution from type 2 diabetes among the patients it serves.
A Major Decision
Pursuing weight loss surgery is a serious decision, just like any other surgery — especially when diabetes is a factor. The skilled surgeons in the ThedaCare Bariatrics program help people assess these risks to determine whether weight loss surgery is a safe and appropriate option.
Through these procedures, surgeons like Dr. Wasco give people a second chance by improving their health and quality of life. In addition to helping resolve type 2 diabetes, the ThedaCare Bariatrics program has seen other impressive outcomes among patients, including:
- 99% improvement or resolution of acid reflux
- 95% improvement or resolution of sleep apnea
- 92% improvement or resolution of high blood pressure
While bariatric surgery is both safe and effective, by no means is it an easy solution. That’s why the ThedaCare Bariatrics team is there to support people every step of the way. The team includes surgeons, nurses, dietitians, exercise physiologists, behavioral health specialists, and care managers. They work together to guide people through the process, from surgery preparation to the procedure itself to a lifetime of support afterward.
“Our comprehensive program is what sets us apart,” Dr. Wasco says. “For those who qualify and are ready to make a change, weight loss surgery can be truly transformative.”