Up until recently, doctors believed that diabetes affects the diaphragm muscle and skeletal muscle the same. Diabetes has a negative effect on all types of muscle by cutting off small vessel blood supplies to the muscles so that they don’t respond well to insulin. In the past, it was believed that this response was universal to both muscle cells and that, in research studies, they could be studied as being the same.
A new research study indicates that diaphragm muscle cells react very differently from regular skeletal muscle in Diabetes. This means that when studying the effects of diabetes on breathing problems, it can’t be assumed that the cause of diaphragm failure is similar to the effect of diabetes on skeletal muscle.
Type 2 diabetes affects a person’s breathing function. It can trigger shortness of breath, and even respiratory failure and death in patients with diabetes who don’t work hard enough to maintain a normal weight. Researchers are trying to find a way to understand how high blood sugar problems in diabetes affect the diaphragm, which is the main breathing muscle for the lungs.
When the diaphragm fails, diabetics who are overweight cannot breathe adequately and can work too hard to get each breath. The diaphragm needs excellent circulation and insulin reactivity in order to function correctly. If it cannot do this, diabetics suffer from shortness of breath, under-breathing, and diaphragmatic fatigue.
Before the latest research study, recently published in The Journal of Applied Physiology, and titled “Exercise training causes differential changes in gene expression in diaphragm arteries and 2A arterioles of obese rats,” it was thought that diaphragm muscle was just like skeletal muscle in the way it reacts to diabetes. Other research studies have treated this muscle as just another skeletal muscle. Research now tells us that, since the muscle fibers are different between diaphragm muscle and skeletal muscle, they react differently to diabetic elevations in blood sugar. The research going forward needs to reflect this difference in diaphragm versus skeletal muscle types.
Now that researchers have determined that diaphragm muscle reacts to diabetes differently from skeletal muscle, more research can be undertaken in order to define exactly how diabetes damages the diaphragm muscle. With more research, it is possible that something can be done to improve diaphragm function in diabetics who are overweight so as to reduce respiratory complications in diabetics. If the research uncovers the way in which diabetes affects the diaphragm muscle, this can be addressed so that fewer people with diabetes will suffer from respiratory complications and diaphragmatic failure.