Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body produces too little insulin (Type One Diabetes) or can’t use available insulin efficiently ( Type Two Diabetes). Insulin is a hormone vital to helping the body use digested food for growth and energy.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, about 17 million Americans have diabetes and every year about 1 million more age 20 or older are diagnosed with the disorder. People who are overweight, do not exercise, and are 30 years or older are more likely to get the disease (especially type 2 diabetes). People who are also of African American, Latino/Hispanic, Native American, Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacific Islander American heritage are more at risk to get the disease than people who are Caucasian.
Type one diabetes is classified as an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune attacks a certain part or system of the body. In this diabetes the immune system attacks the insulin producing cells causing insulin levels in the body to become low. Scientist are unsure of what causes the immune system to attack the cells but believe the reasons may be hereditary or viral.
Type two diabetes is the more common of the two. It is the one that is growing the most in the United States because of the country’s obesity problem.
In this type of diabetes the pancreas (the organ that makes insulin for your body) makes some insulin and sometimes produces too much. The insulin created is usually ineffective in breaking down sugars in the body.
Present treatments for type one diabetes require lifelong care in order to keep blood sugar levels within a safe range. Some treatments include monitoring blood levels several times a day using a home blood sugar meter, taking several insulin injections everyday or using an insulin pump, eating a balanced diet that spreads carbohydrates (sugars) throughout the day to prevent high sugar levels after meals, regular medical checkups to monitor and adjust treatments as needed.
Present treatments for type two diabetes include eating a balanced diet to prevent high sugar levels after meals, getting regular physical exercise because it helps the body respond to insulin better, monitoring blood sugar at home to know when the level is above or below your personal prescribed range, taking oral medication if diet and exercise not able to keep blood sugar levels within a safe range, taking insulin (temporarily or for the rest of your life; temporarily because your blood sugar level may be alarmingly high and the insulin will break it down; forever because your pancreas may produce little or no insulin), and having regular medical checkups to monitor and adjust treatment.
Future treatments for the disease are as follows.
In the future people may be able to inhale insulin rather than take painful injections. There are also speculations about a diabetes vaccine that would inject weak autoimmune cells so your body will not develop them. Genetic engineering may be used someday to convert certain cells into islet cells–stem cells, for example, which the bone marrow uses to make blood cells. These specially designed cells would also resist rejection. Rejection is a concern in any patient because the body’s immune system recognizes any transplanted cells as foreign and destroys them. In a person with diabetes, there is the added challenge of stopping the rejection of islet cells in the pancreas that caused the disease in the first place.
In other words, before a diabetes patient’s islet cells can be replaced, researchers want to make sure these cells won’t be rejected a second time.
Another treatment that still needs work is pancreas transplantation. It concerns type one diabetes. If the treatment is successful, you are cured of diabetes and no longer need treatment. But the cure can be worse than the disease. The body may reject the new pancreas.
To fool the body into accepting the donor organ, doctors try to match the donor and recipient for a blood protein called human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type. Patients with a transplanted organ must take immunosuppressive drugs in order to prevent the immune system from fighting the new organ. The side effects of these drugs may be worse than the .