December is the time of year of many holiday celebrations that involves eating more food than usual. Special holiday sweets – cookies, candies, cakes, and pies – are always part of the merrymaking that most people look forward to creating and eating. It helps draw our attention to a disease that limits thousands of Americans from indulging in traditional holiday sweets.
Its also fitting that as the month of holiday miracles, December may also be symbolic in inspiring hope for diabetics everywhere. In fact, starting December 1, 2011, there are new treatment trials on the horizon that will allow diabetics to lead a more normal life and receive better, more error-free care from their healthcare professionals. Here are two great developments in store for the management of diabetes.
“The Navigator” Artificial Pancreas Leads The Way for Diabetics
To understand how this new device works, let me explain a little about type I diabetes. In insulin-dependent diabetes, the pancreas does not make enough, and sometimes no, insulin to process glucose created from eating food. Type I diabetics must continually check their blood sugar levels to regulate how much insulin they need to take in relation to the food they eat. Too high insulin, hyperglycemia, and too low insulin, hypoglycemia, levels can result in making the diabetic very ill, so exact calibration of insulin is critical to their well-being.
Recently, the University of Virginia has been testing an artificial pancreas device called “The Navigator”, which can help a diabetic regulate their insulin intake more precisely, therefore preventing too high and too low levels, without the constant checking of blood sugar levels throughout the day.
The device is fully automated and duplicates the function of a normal, healthy pancreas. It automatically monitors blood sugar levels through a sensor placed under the skin. The levels are constantly sent to a receiver with intelligent software that then tells the device to release more insulin in the exact, correct dosage, if necessary. The device takes the constant worry away from a diabetic, is it too high, too low, and the constant monitoring of their blood sugar.
The device has not yet been approved by the FDA for consumer use. Earlier versions of this device were two different types of the “low glucose suspend system” – a backup device for diabetics who experience frequent low blood sugar events from taking too much insulin for the food they consumed. One type is a “predetermined” device in which the diabetic still has to monitor their blood sugar levels and give themselves insulin, but the device stops the flow of insulin at a predetermined level. The other type is a “predictive” device that predicts a low blood sugar event based on how fast current blood sugar levels are falling.
One drawback that concerns critics with regard to the artificial pancreas is that it places glucose-monitoring, administration of insulin, completely within the device’s control and takes it away from doctor/nurse monitoring. However, supporters of the device, the JDRF, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, has been working closely with the FDA to get the device released sooner than later, citing that the United States is already 3 years behind other countries in the consumer use of the device.
New U.S. testing trials are to begin December 1st, 2011, and it may be another year or two before Americans can have actual use of the device. Diabetics who are participating in the current device trials, actually using it, and doctors who specialize in diabetes, all champion its use. They state that the device may have a few technical glitches that will have to be worked out once the device is in wider use. Although the device won’t cure diabetes, it’s the first real ray of hope in the treatment of diabetes that allows diabetics to live as if they had a normal, functioning pancreas.
The “Diabetic Dashboard” Reduces Error in Diabetic Care
The “Diabetic Dashboard” is a new tool that helps doctors get all the information they need about a particular diabetic patient; their vital signs, other health conditions, lab tests they may need, current medications, or other pertinent data, all at one time on one screen.
A new study showed that doctors using the Diabetic Dashboard system were able to accurately get a patient’s information 100% of the time, compared to 94% using traditional EHR (electronic health record) systems. In addition, the Dashboard helped coordinate care with other physicians who may be treating the patient for other conditions that often accompany diabetes. The goal of using the Diabetic Dashboard is to ensure that doctors make the right decision in a patient’s care so that diabetics get the correct treatment for their individual situation. Doctors are able to see everything that would influence treatment decisions for a given patient.
The system also helps save money as it prevents duplication of tests and listing those that need to be done, all in a much quicker time. The study showed that doctors only needed to use 3 mouse clicks using Dashboard instead of 60 with existing traditional EHR systems. The Diabetic Dashboard was designed by doctors with their specific treatment of diabetic patients in mind and has been very well received by doctors who tested it. Now, that’s a system I’ve got to have for my diabetic patients! Hopefully, it will be available soon for doctors and their diabetic patients across the country to reap the benefits.
As I tell my diabetic patients, there may be a day when the disease of diabetes becomes a thing of the past. Stem cell treatments have been in trial which allows a diabetic to go without insulin for a few years at a time! In the future, we may be able to identify fetal cells that predict a child getting diabetes and be able to change them before they’re even born. For now, we look to the hope of new research being done every day, like the artificial pancreas and the Dashboard, which, may not cure diabetes, but can certainly help manage treatment more precisely and make life much easier, and healthier, for a type I diabetic.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News