While new treatments for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are being developed all the time, none of these have withstood the ultimate test – of time.
Treatments offered for diabetes are dependent on a number of factors:
• The type of diabetes diagnosed
• The length of time an individual has been diabetic
• In the case of women – pregnancy
• Whether insulin has already been used in significant amounts, to treat the condition
Type 1 diabetes sufferers have only one treatment at the time, the injection of insulin. In type 1 a diabetic who do not take the insulin they need and who allow high levels of glucose to build up in their blood, risk their lives.
Insulin is still usually injected into the subcutaneous fat layer of the skin, implantable insulin pumps are now available, from where it is absorbed into the blood stream for immediate use. However, research is ongoing to try alternative treatment forms and ways of delivering the insulin to the body, one of them is the the delivery of insulin through inhalation. The insulin is prepared in a dry micro fine powder form which is inhaled directly into the lungs from where it is absorbed into the blood stream, but this nor any form, as yet, widely available.
Type 2 diabetes is different. Type 2 usually develops in older individuals and there appears to be a correlation between obesity, and there is a great increase in developement of type 2 in younger childeren who are obese and who don’t exercise. This connection gives the first clue to the simplest form of treatment for type 2 diabetes – diet and exercise.
Type 2 diabetics may find that the only treatment required to control their diabetes is a change in their diet and increase the amount of exercise in their lives. This is more likely if the diabetes is diagnosed at an early stage before insulin levels have dropped too dramatically or tissue has become too resistant to insulin uptake.
When diet and lifestyle changes alone are not enough to control the diabetes, medication will needed. This is often in pill form and is sometimes in a combination of pills. There are basically two kinds of by-mouth medication – those that stimulate the pancreas to produce and release more insulin and those that block or inhibit the release and absorption of glucose into the blood stream. It is important that these drugs are taken exactly as advised – with the instructions often differing between types and brands.
As with all health conditions in the twenty first century, there are an increasing number of alternative and complementary therapies now being promoted which, while interesting, need to be approached with caution.
One of the new treatments now being made available is a drug based on the saliva of a venomous lizard – the Gila Monster. The drug containing this new treatment is delivered by injection in much the same way as insulin but early trials have seen many participants withdraw because of an increase in side effects when compared to those caused by insulin. All research so far undertaken has been sponsored by the pharmaceutical company that produces this drug.
In 2005 researchers reported some success in treating patients with type 1 diabetes with an antibody called ChAglyCD3 that appears to preserve some of the valuable beta cells within the pancreas to permit some insulin production and release. Treatment with this antibody slows the progression of the autoimmune response and the associated destruction of the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. As with all treatments side effects have been reported and the treatment has yet to be proven as safe.
Genetic research continues into the causes of diabetes with some researchers claiming success in identifying the gene responsible for the development of type 2 diabetes. Geneticists hope that further research will assist diabetics through the development of the following possible treatments:
A diabetes vaccine. Experiments are already being carried out on animals to test a vaccination against the autoimmune response that causes type 1 diabetes.
Scientists have already used genetic engineering to make liver cells that produce insulin. Unfortunately, although insulin is produced there is no internal control mechanism as there is with the pancreas, so the insulin levels from such cells remains constant regardless of the body’s requirement for this hormone.
There is an enormous amount of research into the therapeutic use of stem cells. Stem cells are the very basic building blocks of the human body and have the ability to develop into any kind of cell.
It is possible that researchers will find a way to use stem cells to make insulin producing cells to replace those that have been damaged by the autoimmune problem that causes type 1 diabetes.
As with the other treatments, these need much more research.
All new treatments offer hope for the future but the effectiveness of any of them will not be fully appreciated until they have been tested over time.
Of course one of the best treatments remains eduction, To that end, there are numerous sources for you to get the information you need about the disease, how to treat it, and any other questions that you may have.
The National Diabetes Education Program is a great example of a place to get accurate information about this disease.
Located online at www.ndep.nih.gov, this institute represents a coalition of public and private organizations, partnered with the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This site is a great resource for learning about diabetes and what it means to your health. That being said, here is some basic information regarding diabetes.
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