Better Treatment Options Are Here

That is now officially history. Parents and caregivers have many options; with education, research, and hard work, they can find the newest and smartest ways to keep their children healthy until a cure is found.

Insulin Options

As discussed in Chapter 6, new insulin options are available today, and by keeping a close eye on the industry, parents can stay ahead of what is coming out in the near future. No longer does a family need to settle for a set meal plan and set times for shots and snacks. Rather, you can sit down with your medical team, look at the almost endless choices of insulin, and find those that work best with the lifestyle you'd like your child to have.

Alert!

Every insulin acts a tiny bit differently in each child. While it's great to take advice from friends with children on other insulin choices, make sure you work with your medical team to figure out if it's the right choice for your child.

Some doctors are also experimenting with other drugs that interact better with insulin, such as pills that are usually used for Type 2 diabetes that can help people with Type 1 better use their insulin. There is also a drug called Symlin that some diabetes patients inject to help level out their blood sugars, particularly just after meals. The idea of a second drug that makes insulin work better is leading some endocrinologists to wonder if A1cs constantly in the 6s, until now almost an impossible task, could be achieved more easily in the near future.

Better Pumps

Pump companies, now fueled by a hungry market, are also working to create better products. As discussed in Chapter 6, not long ago there were only two or three choices. Today, there are more than eight kinds of pumps, and more are coming to market soon. Some companies are even offering upgrade programs that allow you to upgrade to the newest model for a reasonable price; these programs keep you up-to-date in pump care instead of having to hold on to an older model until its warranty expires and insurance helps you again.

Essential

The best place to stay current on pump technology is the nonprofit site, www.insulin-pumpers.org. The site has descriptions, reviews, and all the latest information on all pump models; there are also regular chat sessions with pump company staffers.

Look for pumps today to interact with your personal computer, make bolus suggestions, keep track of “insulin on board,” and even marry to meters. Most, if not all, are now water-resistant, and most are durable enough and portable enough to be usable on children of any age.

The Artificial Pancreas

The Holy Grail of pump therapy, if you will, will be the advent of the artificial pancreas, something that has become truly foreseeable since 2005. With patient groups pushing and researchers wanting this to happen, it now seems closer to reality than ever.

The artificial pancreas is not a new concept. The smart pump or artificial pancreas would constantly track blood sugars and react using an algorithm to give insulin as the body needs it, but it's been something few could get their hands around. Researchers and scientists have struggled with how to make it happen, and with little public support, they had little motivation.

Then, in 2005, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation was approached by a volunteer who wanted to see that change. Frustrated with waiting for the true cure, the parent offered a million dollars for the JDRF to look into pushing forward an artificial pancreas. It worked. Months later, the JDRF's Artificial Pancreas Project was born. The project's short-term goal is to deliver to market a continuous sensor that not only works well for adults and kids alike but is covered by insurance and available to everyone. The longer-term goal is to marry that sensor to a pump and have them interact and work independently from the person, and, eventually, become one item that works as a pancreas, keeping blood sugars level on a constant basis.

Alert!

For up-to-date information on the Artificial Pancreas Project, log onto www.jdrf.org and sign up for the Artificial Pancreas Project newsletter. You'll get updates via e-mail as the project progresses.

The JDRF has helped spur lots of activity in this area and has set a goal of pushing to make it happen sooner than it ever would have without their support and the support of the tens of thousands of families they represent.

Continuous Sensors

Some children across the nation are on continuous sensors now, either as part of a clinical trial or with their parents paying for them.

The early statistics are good: People on these sensors seem to experience an almost immediate (a few weeks) drop in A1cs. They are also finding that food and insulin do things in their bodies they never realized before. Think of it this way: Even with ten or more blood checks a day, you are only finding out what your child's blood sugar is a tiny fraction of the time. With a continuous sensor, you have almost to-the-moment information and can spot trends such as post-meal spikes that you can then attack better.

Question?

Is the continuous sensor right for my child now?

That's a personal question, and one that your child needs to help answer. It's not easy to wear and run a second device. Make sure your child is on board before you investigate the possibility, as tempting as it is.

The Artificial Pancreas Project (APP) is receiving lots of buzz, with articles in many major publications, and it is helping families remain hopeful for better daily care as they continue to work for and watch for the biological cure.

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