It is estimated that one out of every three men and 40 percent of women born in the year 2000 will suffer from diabetes in their lifetime. The condition afflicts people from all nations and all cultures. While it remains incurable, it is treatable. But few people immediately think of chiropractic care as a valuable treatment for the condition.
However, there is a relationship between the spine and blood sugar. Nerves located in the upper neck and middle back supply signals to the pancreas. If those nerves are disturbed, pancreatic function suffers. For example, its ability to produce insulin might be compromised. Studies have also suggested a spinal nerve-blood sugar connection, reporting the positive effects of chiropractic adjustments when used as part of an integrative treatment for adult onset diabetes.
Whether it’s type 1 or type 2, overall wellness is an important component of living with diabetes. But now technology is also improving the outlook for people suffering from the condition. One hundred years ago, diabetes was a fatal disease. Fifty years ago it was controlled with finger sticks and insulin shots given manually with specialized syringes. When the first insulin pumps became widely available 25 years ago, they were considered a marvel of innovation. Today they are commonplace. The next generation of diabetes care has evolved dramatically with new technologies, digital and otherwise.
While the biology of diabetes has been well understood since the middle of the 20th century, medical and pharmaceutical treatments remained limited. Technology has taken up the slack. Here are some of the latest services and products introduced during 2014 that are designed to both better control the condition and improve diabetics’ quality of life.
Controlling diabetes isn’t just a matter of getting a dose of insulin. Making sure that blood glucose stays within a certain window to minimize the risk of complications such as vision and circulatory difficulties over the long term requires tracking injections and dosages. With kids, this can be a challenge, so the NovoPen Echo features a function that records the dose amount and time taken, while also offering injections in half-unit increments. Designed with kids in mind, the pen is brightly colored and can be personalized with one of many available skins.
The Dario by LabStyle is an all-in-one glucose meter system that interacts with smartphones via a connector that plugs into the headphone jack and a Dario app. After connecting the phone, the user adds blood to a test strip and the app software provides real-time recording and analysis of blood glucose readings. The results are then displayed on the phone. The data can be sent to a physician or elsewhere for community support.
In June 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an inhalable insulin powder. Afrezza is a fast-acting insulin that is taken immediately prior to each meal. Afrezza is not a substitute for long-acting insulin and needs to be used in combination with long-acting insulin in patients with type 1 diabetes. The most common side effects seen during clinical trials were hypoglycemia, cough, and throat irritation. It is not recommended for the treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis or for patients who smoke.
The body absorbs inhaled insulin more quickly and in a different way, says R. Keith Campbell, professor emeritus of diabetes care and pharmacotherapy at Washington State University College of Pharmacy. “Afrezza peaks in the blood within 15 to 20 minutes, whereas injected insulin taken before a meal takes about an hour to peak.” The body also metabolizes Afrezza more quickly.
The fast-acting nature of the inhalable form is similar to what a healthy pancreas does.
The Artificial Pancreas
Despite the improvements in insulin, monitor accuracy, and pumps, the majority of those with diabetes still spend most of their time outside of the recommended glycemic window. The solution was to create an artificial pancreas that can sense glucose and secrete an appropriate quantity of insulin in response.
The device is comprised of an insulin pump, continuous glucose monitoring, and most importantly, a control algorithm that acts as the brain controlling the artificial pancreas by interpreting the glucose measurements and then directing the pump to administer the correct dose of both insulin and glucagon. The algorithm enables the device to reduce the average blood glucose to levels that significantly lower the risk of diabetic complications.
While the artificial pancreas does not cure type 1 diabetes, it has the potential to revolutionize treatment of the condition in the same way pacemakers were a game changer for many cardiac patients.