National discussions on eating better, exercising more, and promoting an overall healthier lifestyle are aimed partially at children who are greater risks
for developing type 2 diabetes. Those discussions couldn't be timelier as type 2 diabetes rates in children grew from virtually none in the 1990s to
more than 3,600 annually
in 2005 (the latest year with data available).
Type 1 research has also emphasized tighter control and management to reduce complications, but through different methods. One of the most important
innovations has been the development of affordable insulin pumps.
Designed to artificially mimic a pancreas, the pumps provide a steady stream of insulin into the patient's body. Though styles and methods vary, the
devices have grown progressively smaller and less clunky. I recently joined the ranks of insulin pump users and the technology has been transformative, to say the
The device I wear, the OmniPod, contains no wires and communicates with a separate tiny
computer (it looks like a smartphone) to deliver the insulin. From glancing at me, you probably wouldn't be able to find the device. It's that small.
Every three days, I put a new pod onto my body after loading it by insulin. After placing it on my underarm, abdomen, lower back, or leg, I press a button
and a needle is inserted into my skin for 1/200 of a second. The needle is then withdrawn, and a plastic cannula (tube) is all that remains to deliver the
From the handheld computer (it is called a "personal diabetes manager"), I test my blood sugar, control how much insulin I'm receiving at any given moment,
and track trends in both blood sugars and insulin delivery.
In addition to pumps, research trials have explored the possibility of transplanting healthy pancreases into type 1 diabetics. The results have been
promising -- those pancreases that are accepted tend to cure the patient of diabetes -- but organ rejection remains a daunting challenge to overcome.
Outside of the medical realm, social media has brought a new wave of interconnectedness and communication between diabetics. Networks like Juvenation provide message boards and opportunities for diabetics to answer questions and
support one another. Another site, Diabetes Mine, offers daily news about the disease.
On a more local level, support groups have grown into even smaller niche communities. Diabetic athlete groups now exist in many parts of the country and
social groups host happy hours and other events for networking and mingling.
Though I was fortunate enough to have the support of a loving family and a devoted group of friends immediately after my diagnosis, there is no question the moments of feeling alone would have seemed less overwhelming with these social media communities. Until society can find a cure for this disease (and we will), it is encouraging to see continual medical and technological innovation, so diabetics (both type 1 and type 2) don't have to face the challenges that come with these diseases alone.