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New Type 2 Diabetes Treatment Options


Type 2 Diabetes Treatment: Glucose Monitoring and Insulin Pumps

Experts say that there have been great strides in glucose monitoring and insulin pumps. Continuous glucose monitors work with a tiny sensor that a doctor implants in the skin. The sensor sends data about current glucose levels to a wireless device that looks like a pager. The sensors need to be replaced every three to seven days.

"Once, people had to urinate on a strip of paper to get even a rough idea of their glucose levels," says Cypess. "Now, they can get a precise update every few minutes with a continuous glucose monitor. It's amazing."

For people with type 2 diabetes who need injected insulin, insulin pumps are now more refined.  The devices give smaller and more precise doses, says Kalyani.

Many companies are working on technology that will fully automate the interaction between a continuous glucose monitor and a pump. You would not have to press the button on your pump when your monitor alerts you. Instead, the monitor would trigger the pump to give the insulin dose directly.  The two would operate without your input -- creating what many experts call an "artificial pancreas."

Type 2 Diabetes Treatment: Lifestyle Changes

We've known for a long time that lifestyle -- such as diet and exercise -- play a key role in controlling type 2 diabetes. Kalyani says that the last decade of research has only made the connection more clear.

Studies show that aggressively controlling glucose with lifestyle changes can reduce heart risk in people with diabetes. Experts generally recommend that people with diabetes get at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week coupled with strength training.

When it comes to food choices, Cypess says that there is no one-size-fits-all diabetes diet. "You have to be flexible and creative in developing a meal plan," he tells WebMD.  Cypess says that many people -- but not all -- do well on low-carb and Mediterranean diets. The key is to work with an expert, such as a dietitian with experience treating diabetes. You need a custom plan. It has to be something that you can stick with for the long haul.

While research over the last decade has shown just how well lifestyle changes work for diabetes, there's a catch. We also have a clearer understanding of the drawbacks. It's hard to make big changes to your diet and lifestyle that stick, Kalyani says.

For that reason, Kalyani says that many diabetes doctors are now quicker to get people onto drugs than they were in the past. Given the importance of glucose control, doctors may be less likely to wait while a person keeps trying, without real success, to adopt healthier habits.

Type 2 Diabetes Treatment: Getting Control

One of the biggest changes in diabetes management has not come from a medication or a device. Instead, it's a different approach. Diabetes doctors are much more aggressive in treating the disease.

"There's much more emphasis on catching diabetes early and treating it earlier," says Janet B. McGill, MD, an endocrinologist and professor of medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "We have strong evidence of how poorly controlled diabetes can have serious complications later. We're acting faster in doing something about it."

More important than any specific treatment, experts say, is good control of your condition and regular medical care.

"If you're getting the right support, managing diabetes is very straightforward," says Cypess. "With good treatment, anyone with diabetes can learn how to control this disease. It doesn't have to control you."

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Reviewed on September 08, 2011
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