Pain affects millions of people with diabetes. For most of these people, the pain is chronic, defined as pain persisting for more than six months, experienced almost every day, and of moderate to severe intensity, or that significantly interferes with daily activities. In some cases, a person’s pain is clearly related to complications of diabetes; in other cases, it is not. Regardless of the cause, however, studies show that chronic pain makes diabetes self-management much more difficult and often leads to higher blood glucose levels.
Today, 425 million adults live with diabetes, and that number is expected to grow to 629 million by 2045, with the greatest number between the ages of 40 to 59 years old. The global prevalence of diabetes has risen from 4.7 percent in 1980 to 8.5 percent in 2014, with the proportion of type 2 diabetes increasing around the world. On top of those numbers, another whopping 352 million people are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. According to the 2017 Economic Cost of Diabetes survey sponsored by the American Diabetes Association, the total cost of diabetes was estimated to be $327 billion, a 26 percent increase since 2012. About three-quarters of those costs are associated with direct medical expenditures. Patients with diabetes are expected to pay an average of $9,600 in additional medical costs annually. A diabetes cure could cut out a nice chunk of fat out of those costs, potentially worth $245 billion from the 30 million diabetic Americans alone.
Holiday parties were right around the corner, and I needed a cover story. I didn’t feel like admitting to casual acquaintances, or even to some good friends, that I drive a van for Amazon. I decided to tell them, if asked, that I consult for Amazon, which is loosely true: I spend my days consulting a Rabbit, the handheld Android device loaded with the app that tells me where my next stop is, how many packages are coming off the van, and how hopelessly behind I’ve fallen.
The culprit in fungal infections of people with diabetes is often Candida albicans. This yeast-like fungus can create itchy rashes of moist, red areas surrounded by tiny blisters and scales. These infections often occur in warm, moist folds of the skin. Problem areas are under the breasts, around the nails, between fingers and toes, in the corners of the mouth, under the foreskin (in uncircumcised men), and in the armpits and groin.
This deluge of products alternately offered to fill attendees with energy or to calm us down, but almost never to keep us as we were. The implicit allure of such products was that we were not okay, or at least could be better. Given all the ways in which most people believe we could be improved, “wellness” has become an all-encompassing concept and industry that not only eats into the territory of mainstream medicine, but that has subsumed what used to be called “alternative medicine”—that which alludes to scientific claims when convenient and also defines itself in opposition to the scientific establishment.
A good way to understand the many causes of chronic pain is by considering phantom limb pain. When people lose an arm or leg in an accident or surgery, about half of them will still feel that the limb is there. About half of those people develop serious pain in the phantom limb. Obviously, this isn’t due to physical injury going on in the moment. It’s a misunderstanding by the brain of the signals it is getting and not getting. The brain figures the signals add up to something seriously wrong, so it sends out an urgent pain message.
The relationship between type 2 diabetes and the main modifiable risk factors (excess weight, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use) is similar in all regions of the world. There is growing evidence that the underlying determinants of diabetes are a reflection of the major forces driving social, economic and cultural change: globalization, urbanization, population aging, and the general health policy environment.
With Type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin well and is unable to keep blood sugar at normal levels. Most people with diabetes—9 in 10—have type 2 diabetes. It develops over many years and is usually diagnosed in adults (though increasingly in children, teens, and young adults). You may not notice any symptoms, so it’s important to get your blood sugar tested if you’re at risk. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes, such as losing weight if you’re overweight, healthy eating, and getting regular physical activity.
For her part, St Clair thought she was inquiring about a technical glitch. Her brother—the brother who along with three other siblings had gifted her the DNA test for her birthday—wasn’t showing up right in her family tree. It was not a glitch, the woman on the line had to explain gently, if this news can ever land gently: The man St Clair thought of as her brother only shared enough DNA with her to be a half-sibling. In fact, she didn’t match any family members on her father’s side. Her biological father must be someone else.
Diabetes doesn’t cause nearly as much of a stir in the media compared to HIV or cancer, but a few well-known names are associated with the disease – Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, and Paula Deen. And who doesn’t love that Food Network maven and American celebrity chef? Scandals aside, diabetes comes in two versions – Type I or Type II. In Type I, the pancreas decides to drop out of the physiological rat race and go on to discover its own metabolic purpose in life. As a result, the body generates little or no insulin, a hormone important in sugar metabolism. In Type II, unfortunate dietary choices, such as eating tons of sugar and carbohydrates, jam up the sugar absorption process, causing the body to become resistant to the insulin hormone. Type 2 makes up 90 percent of all cases of diabetes, which is going to be our focus here as we talk about when there will be a cure for diabetes. (Spoiler alert: Probably only after we ban the Big Gulp and the Big Mac.)
In 2016, the 2nd Diabetes Surgery Summit released its own guidelines, arguing that surgery should be widely recommended for moderately obese people with diabetes who haven’t responded well to other treatments. They also agreed it should be considered for mildly obese people. And because of how cost-effective surgery is, especially compared to standard treatment, insurance companies should be willing to foot the bill, it said.
Big pharma are in the early stages of developing their own cell therapy approaches for diabetes. Novo Nordisk, one of the largest providers of diabetes treatments, is bidding for stem cells and an encapsulation device, stating that the first clinical trial could take place in the “next few years.” Sanofi, also a big name in diabetes, is working with the German Evotec in a beta cell replacement therapy for diabetics.
Diabetes is a number of diseases that involve problems with the hormone insulin. Normally, the pancreas (an organ behind the stomach) releases insulin to help your body store and use the sugar and fat from the food you eat. Diabetes can occur when the pancreas produces very little or no insulin, or when the body does not respond appropriately to insulin. As yet, there is no cure. People with diabetes need to manage their disease to stay healthy.