Good News! Deaths From Type 1 Diabetes Dropping
"The timing of this drop in deaths exactly fits the introduction of advanced monitoring devices," Orchard says. "These patients have had the benefit of being able to closely track their insulin requirements."
While the figures are encouraging, American Diabetes Association President-Elect Christopher D. Saudek, MD, points out that the overall mortality rate for people with type 1 diabetes is still twice that of those without the disease. And a decline in mortality rates among blacks did not change the fact that they are three times more likely to die from type 1 diabetes within 20 years of being diagnosed than are whites.
"On average, we are doing better, and that is very good news," Saudek tells WebMD. "But this also suggests we have a long way to go. This study confirms that, on the whole, people are living longer with diabetes, but it also suggests there is a large gap between those with access to good healthcare and those without access. It would be reasonable to assume that the higher mortality among minorities is related to lack of access."
The advances made during the last few decades, and those expected in the near future, should further increase the opportunities for people with type 1 diabetes to live long, healthy lives, Saudek adds.
Sonia Cooper says her son has benefited and continues to benefit from those advances. For example, when she first started testing her infant son's glucose levels 10 years ago, Cooper would often have to stick his finger as many as 6 times to get enough blood for a reading. Today's monitors need about one-tenth as much blood and are almost painless.
Her son Mathew is also one of the first children anywhere to wear a special watch-like monitor that measures glucose levels every 10 minutes. Worn on the wrist, the GlucoWatch uses a small electric current to extract fluid from under the skin. Approved by the FDA last month, the GlucoWatch, made by Cygnus Inc., measures glucose levels with special sensor pads that are replaced each day.
"It is amazingly cool," she tells WebMD. "An alarm goes off if [glucose] levels are too low or too high. When Mathew is not paying attention, it pays attention for him. It's like a mom on a wrist."