Balancing Act

People with the most serious type of diabetes can’t produce the insulin their bodies need to convert food into energy. They must rely on insulin injections. Mary has to juggle self-injections of insulin, regular exercise and a special diet to keep her blood sugar levels normal. If she doesn’t?

Mary, diabetic:
“Sweat, shake, I’ve actually gone into seizures.”

Dr. Steve is trying to refine the balancing act. He’s perfecting an implantable insulin pump that automatically delivers insulin much like the external pump he wears to manage his own diabetes. “The pump works just like the external pump but delivers insulin right where a normal non-diabetic person’s pancreas is.” He said.

Gary had an experimental pump implanted three years ago. “It’s made a significant difference in the quality of my life. I can skip a meal if I have to, because of my work schedule and eating later it does not affect my blood sugars, I can keep them in tight control.”

A new, fast-acting insulin is also making the balancing act easier. Humalog is said to work better than older insulins because it works more like the insulin found in people without diabetes. It allows you to take the insulin and then sit down and eat the meal. Previously one had to wait 30-45 minutes to eat and that was rather disruptive. In fact, many patients weren’t able to do it and so it threw their control off.

Mary switched over to Humalog. She says she enjoys her meals more now and sleeps better at night.

“I haven’t had any insulin reactions since I’ve been on it. At night, usually at night I tended to see more reactions at night but recently I haven’t had any.”

The balancing act is more difficult at night. Blood sugar levels can dip dangerously low during sleep and send a diabetic into shock or a coma.

Vart, Daughter is diabetic:
“She started hallucinating as far as thinking my hand turned into a snake.”

A new snack food, Zbar, is designed to stabilize blood sugar during a diabetic’s sleep. The uncooked cornstarch in the candy bar is digested slowly over six hours.

Dr. Says:
“It’s definitely a quality of life enhancer. We’re trying to prevent complications of diabetes and the only way we can do that is to keep blood sugars closer to a normal range.”

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