Pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Anne-Marie Kaulfers, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, said treatment for Type I diabetes has dramatically changed in recent years.
Type I diabetes, also known as juvenile onset diabetes, is a lifelong disease that occurs when the pancreas
does not produce insulin to properly control blood glucose levels. Most often it is diagnosed before the patient reaches the age of 18.
"For reasons not clearly understood, this disease is becoming more common," Dr. Kaulfers said. "We are currently seeing 10 new cases a month, which is much more frequent than in past years."
Treatment for Type I diabetes has changed for the better with continuous glucose monitors - a device placed on the body, usually on the stomach, that measures blood glucose every few minutes throughout the day and night. "The monitor can detect trends and tell if your blood glucose is going up or down too quickly. This feedback allows patients to know ahead of time if they need to eat a snack to boost their blood sugar levels and when to increase insulin dosage if blood glucose is high."
"This is something that our parents love," Dr. Kaulfers added. "They are now able to monitor their children all of the time. The monitor can tell parents in the middle of the night if their child is having issues with their blood glucose levels."
Dr. Kaulfers said there are currently research studies being conducted for future technologies. In approximately 10 years, she predicts that people suffering from Type I diabetes will be able to use a sensor, called an artificial pancreas, that will wirelessly communicate and control the insulin pump. "This technology will be completely user-independent," she said. "It will not require the patient to do anything to control their blood glucose level - essentially you will be able to eat what you want and be as active as you want."
Currently, the new device works overnight but is still being tested for daytime use. It will most likely first come out as a nighttime-only device.
Dr. Kaulfers said these new advances in care are important because your average blood glucose determines if you will have complications later in life, such as kidney disease, heart disease or even blindness. "These advances in technology will dramatically cut down on long-term issues."
Dr. Kaulfers recently gave a community lecture on potential cures for Type 1 diabetes. To view the lecture online, click here
. To make an appointment with Dr. Kaulfers, call (251) 405-5147.