Technology as a cure for Diabetes?
I am reminded daily how much more we need in terms of assistance for diabetes management. The visits I have with people show how hard we are working as people with diabetes, or as caregivers of those who aren’t old enough yet or can’t any longer manage on their own. Just the other day a parent of a young child I am working with asked the very common question “when will there be a cure?” noting how much work this is for her and seeing the work that lies ahead for her child as he grows up. I wish I had a crystal ball to foresee the future of diabetes. Will there be a cure? The only thing I can say is “I don’t know”. That is not comforting at all.
I’ve not thought of it as something I may see in my lifetime honestly. It was almost the yearly promise for at least 5 years after I was diagnosed….33.5 years ago! We’ve seen the article on the man who was cured of type 1 diabetes, but when we talk about a cure, it is really something we want as an option for all. This is success but considerably limited in terms of access to the masses who need help managing today. I am encouraged by all the work of the many scientists who are trying to find a way to make the body function more like it should again. However, I feel like I express the frustration of many, and that I heard in the mother’s voice “When will there be a cure?”. Waiting is frustrating.
With that said, however, I do see the promise to something that might be as close to a cure as I’ll see, and honestly, I’ll take it. What is it I refer to? The fact is that while we have no cure to make our body go back to being a self-sustaining glucose regulating system, darn dead beta cells, we have seen an enormous surge in technology. So, there it is, not a cure so to speak, but as close as I think we’ll come for a while. This is the jar I’d put all my jellybeans into for the hope of easier day-to-day management. Advances in technology in the diabetes world in the past 5 years alone are astounding. Things have changed dramatically even in the 20+ years I have worn a pump. This is what I see as being the best bet to taking a lot of the day-to-day struggle in management out of the system. The smarter systems get, the less we’ll need to think about things like going out to take a run 3 hours ahead of time to avoid low glucose levels. The better these systems get, the less we’ll have to think about what type of food we are eating, how will it impact glucose levels now and hours later, and whether the stress experienced at work will impact control all day. All the 100+ variables we must consider in our day-to-day life will be less on our mind and we’ll be able to really just walk out the door with a piece of technology attached to our body…because it will do the thinking for us.
A lot of companies and people have already jumped on this train of management in the effort to assist more and tighten control. We have FDA-approved hybrid closed loop pump systems already on the market, and a lot of the buzz in the Diabetes community this past week is specifically about the Omnipod 5 finally, FINALLY, being approved by the FDA. We can honestly say we have waited a LONG time for this to come to pass, and now we must wait just a bit longer to get through the limited market release time. We also have a wonderful community of VERY smart people who have put volunteer time and energy into the world of DIY pumping. We have seen what this can do for the pieces of life that are impacted by diabetes, but not discussed such as mental health and sleep.
I have listened to podcasts and read a lot about these algorithm-driven pumps and they continue to improve. A real cure may come someday, and that would be more than warmly welcomed by the many people who live with diabetes. As a person with type 1 diabetes, I feel like the advances in technology that are happening right now are where we’ll see the most benefit in our control. I’m glad I’m in this age of change in the world of diabetes management and can personally use these tools as well as help others to use them to their benefit as well.
If you feel you are at the point of considering the use of new technology or would love to know how to use what you have to the best of your ability, give us a call. All the clinicians at Integrated Diabetes live with type 1 diabetes and we all use the latest technology with algorithm-driven pumps. We’d love to help you get moving in the best direction for your own management!
As a T1D of nearly 53 years, I can agree with every statement you’ve made in this article. As a pediatric diabetes educator, it was the saddest and hardest question I had to answer at the bedside or in the office when asked by a newly diagnosed family. How could we not offer the hope of a cure someday? In 1969 I was not offered hope, only the message that I may only live to 25. I’m now 65 and on Medicare! Glory hallelujah!
My only concern about the wonderful technology we have available today is that not everyone has the same access. How can our healthcare “system” deny these technologies to the masses of at least all T1Ds? How can we as a society support withholding life changing technology and medications from the under privileged when we are the wealthiest country on earth and the Christian nation so many claim us to be?
Thank you for such a thoughtful article.