In recent decades, new treatments for geriatric diabetes have emerged. They include dozens of new medications as well as non-pharmacologic therapies. In this two-part post, we’ll look at the range of new treatments and their associated benefits.
As the world approaches the 100th anniversary of the first insulin treatment, prospects for the treatment of the disease continue to improve. It was in 1921 that a Canadian physician and his assistant injected insulin into a gravely ill girl who later regained her full health. The two men shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine the following year.
The State of Geriatric Diabetes Today
What hasn’t changed since diabetes was recognized as a medical condition 3,000 years ago is the challenge of identifying its underlying causes. Diabetes remains a chronic, rather than acute, disease. What has changed, however, is the efficacy and expedient nature of the treatments.
Unfortunately, there is bad news, as well. A 2011 issue of the prestigious British medical journal, Lancet reports that the diabetes rate has doubled over the past 30 years. The driving factor is obesity, which is soaring in developing countries, as diets become more westernized and sedentary lifestyles become more common. Thus, an estimated 350 million people worldwide now have diabetes. This makes it one of the world’s fastest-growing chronic conditions and one of the biggest burdens on global health care expenditures.
The Changing Concepts of Diabetes
There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1, however, is no longer commonly known as “juvenile diabetes” or “insulin-dependent diabetes.” Here’s why: Scientists now realize that Type 2 isn’t age-dependent, and insulin-dependency may be present in both types.
In essential terms, treatment for Type 1 hasn’t changed dramatically since 1921. In Type 1, the patient’s body can’t produce enough insulin, the hormone secreted by the pancreas to keep blood sugar (glucose) levels within a tight range. For these patients, a low-carb diet is generally advantageous. Exercise can also help control blood sugar levels.
Changing Treatments for Type 2 Diabetes
Far more numerous are new medications and treatments for Type 2, also known as diabetes mellitus. The term “mellitus,” which is Greek for “honey,” is a term coined centuries ago. A British physician observed that people with the disease had cloudy urine, which is indicative of high sugar levels. Balancing the high sugar levels is their key to health.
Because Type 2 diabetes usually results not from a failure to produce insulin (as in Type 1), but from the body’s inability to use insulin efficiently, the targets for new medications for Type 2 differ from that of Type 1. For example, treatments may focus on keeping the insulin the body produces in the bloodstream longer. Further, other treatments supplement insulin with drugs to do the same thing. Still, other treatments work to prevent ingested carbohydrates from metabolizing into sugars. All these are varied means of overcoming the essential challenge of the disease: high blood sugar levels.
Because they vary from person to person, treatment must be highly individual in nature. Your age, tolerance to medications, ability to benefit from non-pharmacologic therapies, overall health, and other factors must dictate the treatment regimen.
Before Type 2 Diabetes Hits
If you are pre-diabetic, the doctor will prescribe chiefly diet changes and targeted exercises to perform. You may also receive certain medications to control weight gain, inhibit blood glucose, and increase natural insulin levels.
If you become diabetic, then other medications and treatments will be suggested. However, your doctor will be observing the progress of your illness to determine when insulin injections will be needed.
In Part 2, we’ll explore the categories of medications and other treatments for Type 2 diabetes.
David York Supports New Research for Geriatric Diabetes Treatments
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