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Single diabetes pump checks glucose and dispenses insulin

Updated on November 14, 2011
Type 1 diabetes can strike at any age.
Type 1 diabetes can strike at any age. | Source

Diabetes

Diabetes affects almost 8 percent of the American population and is a leading cause of death and disability. Type 1 diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which your pancreas stops making insulin. Insulin is an important hormone that regulates blood glucose, your cell's main energy source. When the hormone is released into your blood, it moves glucose into your cells, making it available as an energy supply. In diabetes, insulin is low or absent. As result, blood glucose becomes too high, starving your cells for energy. Although the cause of type 1 diabetes is not clear, it may involve an autoimmune reaction that occurs in a child or adolescent. The cause of the reaction may be a a viral infection or some over event that ultimately causes immune cells to attack and destroy insulin-producing cells. Symptoms usually appear quickly and may include thirst, frequent urination, weight loss and gastric upset.

Standard Treatments

The key to managing type 1 diabetes is maintaining a healthy diet, a moderate level of physical activity and replacing missing insulin in your body in the correct amounts at the right times. The amount of insulin you take needs to be appropriate for the amount of glucose in your blood. Too much insulin can lower blood sugar too low, causing a dangerous situation. Too little insulin can leave blood sugar too high, raising your risk for serious problems. With traditional approaches, blood glucose needs to be monitored often by checking a blood sample, then adjusting your intake of insulin to match your blood glucose level. Many people with type 1 diabetes use a glucose-monitoring instrument to obtain periodic readings of blood glucose and a separate insulin pump to release the amount of insulin indicated by the current glucose level. Many patients become very adept at anticipating insulin dosage to match a meal or snack. However, new systems are now available that do both jobs automatically through a single pump, giving the diabetic patient new freedom from constant testing and periodic insulin delivery.

New Dual-Duty Pumps

A new generation of automatic pumps for type 1 diabetes is moving us ever closer to an "artificial pancreas". These new systems perform two critical functions: they monitor glucose continuously and they also respond as needed with an infusion of insulin, whenever glucose rises over a preset level. Some of these systems, such as the MiniMed Paradigm Veo system from Medtronics, will also stop insulin delivery for up to two hours if glucose levels drop too low, an important safety feature that can protect a user from dangerous hypoglycemia even during sleep. A tiny glucose sensor placed under the skin measures glucose in tissue fluid at a continuous rate. The company indicates that the sensor lasts 6 days. The sensor communicates wirelessly with the insulin pump, and the two instruments act together to keep glucose in a safe range.

Summary

Scientists are striving toward a true "artificial pancreas", one potentially made of living cells that can release insulin in response to your body's needs. Until this happens, the new dual-duty pumps that measure glucose and regulate insulin automatically may be a good choice to keep you healthy. Discuss all options with your doctor to determine the best strategy for you.

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