PUBLISHED: 4:21 PM on Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Technology gives diabetics more control over disease
HOLLAND, Mich. -- Diabetes never takes a vacation. So says Greg Deines, a Zeeland-based doctor of osteopathy.

Deines and his son, Mitchell, have Type I diabetes, which means their bodies don't produce enough insulin. Each uses a high-tech pump to monitor and deliver synthetic insulin to their bodies.

Diabetes occurs in several ways. Some people are born with malfunctioning pancreases. Others develop the disorder from an autoimmune condition or from obesity.

The condition is the body's inability to produce or use insulin, resulting in high glucose levels.

Unregulated glucose can lead to amputations and death.

This week, diabetes researchers are meeting in Chicago, examining the latest research and checking out treatment innovations.

One of the least surprising facts: Since 1990, diabetes diagnoses have risen by 5 percent each year.

One direct cause is obesity, according to Linda S. Geiss, MA, Chief of Diabetes Surveillance, Diabetes Program, Division of Diabetes Translation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In a statement released by the American Diabetes Association, she called for more rigorous prevention efforts. More than 25 percent of Michigan residents are 30 pounds or more overweight, according to the CDC.

The CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) figures indicate 14.6 million Americans have been diagnosed with some form of diabetes; another 6.2 million have the disease but don't know it.

What's already known, Deines says, is the rate of Type II diabetes is rising among younger people. The CDC and NIH are currently running a five-year study of diabetes rates in people 20 and younger to get a specific figure.

Deines says with proper insulin management, all these threats can be minimized. He says more than 90 percent of people with diabetes have Type 2. "A typical 12 year-old has constant access to fast food," Deines says.

"By fast food, I mean it's immediately available, not just drive-though (meals). Instead of going outside and running around or riding a bike, the kid sits in front of computer games, plays for six hours, getting up to grab a (soft drink) when he gets thirsty. We consume more calories than we can burn. That's the problem."

Proper Type 2 diabetes management, he says, takes daily commitment ,but has a huge payoff.

"I've had some people who were markedly obese -- weighing 350 and 400 pounds -- lose 125, 135 pounds and go from requiring three or four medications to being able to control diabetes with their diet," he says.

"But if they gain the weight back, the diabetes medications are coming back."

Advances in medication have helped, he says, but the treatment mainstay is daily vigilance.

People like Deines and his son must use medication and diet management to control Type 1 diabetes. They are benefiting from advanced technology. In May, the elder Deines had a new pump implanted.

"It's to the point where insulin pumps can sense your blood sugar and warn you before it goes to high or low," he says.

"That's just this year's model. There are more in the pipeline that keep getting smarter and faster."

He's going to make sure the pump functions as expected before getting one for his son.

The one thing people can do to prevent or minimize the impact of diabetes, he says, is "whatever it takes to maintain normal blood sugar.

"Diabetes is the leading preventable cause of dialysis in the United States," he says.

"If you take care of yourself, you can prevent complications and problems down the road."

Holland native Tom Nelis is planning a 106-mile bike ride to help raise donations for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. His nephew, Stephen Grote, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in March 2006.

"He is an active teen and everything affects his blood sugar, including sports, stress, illness, emotions, normal growth and hormones," Nelis says. "Some of these things have bigger effects than others. This makes coping with this disease very hard."

"I want to live a normal, healthy life, but until we find the cure, I will always be adjusting my insulin levels for whatever I do," Grote wrote.

"Same with many other people I have met with diabetes at camps or JDRF meetings."