An artificial pancreas could revolutionize the treatment of diabetes, and it may only be a few years away.
For millions of people with diabetes worldwide, life is a
series of fingersticks, injections, and surges and dips in blood sugar levels.
But with its promise of automatically regulating a person's blood sugar, the
artificial pancreas could change all that.
"The artificial pancreas will revolutionize the treatment
of diabetes," says Eric Renard, MD, PhD, professor of endocrinology,
diabetes and metabolism at Montpellier Medical School in Montpellier, France.
"It will prevent diabetes complications, [which include blindness, kidney
failure, amputations, heart disease, and death]. And quality of life will be
tremendously improved as people won't have to be constantly pricking and
monitoring themselves," says Renard, who is leading the first clinical
trial of the device.
There are many things you can do to prevent the development and progression of diabetes complications. After reading about the following diabetes complications, talk to your doctor about your health risk for these problems and some ways they can be prevented.
The artificial pancreas is designed to help patients with type
1 diabetes maintain blood sugar levels within the normal range -- critical for
preventing diabetes complications, he explains.
The man-made organ has three parts, all of which have to work
perfectly in synch: a sensor that continually monitors blood or tissue sugar
levels, an insulin infusion pump, and a computer algorithm that controls the
delivery of insulin minute by minute based on measured blood sugar, says
Jeffrey I. Joseph, DO, director of the Artificial Pancreas Center at Thomas
Jefferson University in Philadelphia. The sensor relays information to the
pump, which then dispenses just the right amount of insulin.
A fully automated and integrated device probably won't be ready
for prime time for at least four years -- maybe more. But "we're getting
there one step at a time," Joseph says, with researchers worldwide testing
various components of the system alone or in combination.
Insulin Pump a Step Forward
Furthest along in development is the insulin pump, which is
worn on a belt or totally implanted in the body. The external pump is already
used by thousands of people with diabetes worldwide, and the implantable pump
is approved in Europe and is in clinical trials in the U.S. Either can be used
in an artificial pancreas.
The development of the implantable pump was a major step
forward, Renard says, with studies showing significant advantages over multiple
daily injections of insulin in controlling blood sugar levels and improving
quality of life.
Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!
Your level is currently
If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.
People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.
Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.
However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.
Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.
One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
Thank you for signing up for the WebMD Diabetes Newsletter!
You'll find tips and tricks as well as the latest news and research on Diabetes.
Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?
Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.