If you have diabetes, you know it well: Too much sugar isn’t good for you. People whose blood sugar is too high or difficult to control are more susceptible to cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, eye problems and other complications, including nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy). Advertising Policy Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising … Read More
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Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease, for which there is no known cure except in very specific situations. Management concentrates on keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal, without causing low blood sugar. This can usually be accomplished with a healthy diet, exercise, weight loss, and use of appropriate medications (insulin in the case of type 1 diabetes; oral medications, as well as possibly insulin, in type 2 diabetes).
I am very excited by the closed-loop artificial pancreas trial which is now in its final stages. Professor Roman Hovorka at the University of Cambridge is currently perfecting an algorithm that enables a continuous glucose monitor and an insulin pump to talk to each other, and take over the delivery of insulin throughout the day and night, to keep glucose levels in range.
Without insulin, that extra sugar starts to hang out in your blood with nowhere to go. Just like with honey or sweet syrup, high concentrations of sugar causes the blood to thicken. Physiologically, this pulls fluids and water from other parts of the body into the bloodstream, causing swelling and dryness. Early symptoms of diabetes are relatively mild, including excessive peeing, dry mouth, itchy skin, hunger, fatigue, and blurred vision.
Nerve damage from diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy and is also caused by disease of small blood vessels. In essence, the blood flow to the nerves is limited, leaving the nerves without blood flow, and they get damaged or die as a result (a term known as ischemia). Symptoms of diabetic nerve damage include numbness, burning, and aching of the feet and lower extremities. When the nerve disease causes a complete loss of sensation in the feet, patients may not be aware of injuries to the feet, and fail to properly protect them. Shoes or other protection should be worn as much as possible. Seemingly minor skin injuries should be attended to promptly to avoid serious infections. Because of poor blood circulation, diabetic foot injuries may not heal. Sometimes, minor foot injuries can lead to serious infection, ulcers, and even gangrene, necessitating surgical amputation of toes, feet, and other infected parts.
Innovation in technology is not just fuelling advances in diabetes treatments though. I know it will accelerate the path to the cure. And this is what unites people with type-1 diabetes, researchers, our charitable supporters and funders. I am convinced one day we will consign type 1 to the history books and no one will ever receive this life-changing diagnosis again.