The Special Problem of “Hidden Diabetes”
Of the estimated 12 million Americans with Type II diabetes, at least half do not know that they are victims. If left untreated, life-threatening complications can result.
If you are over 40, overweight, or have relatives with diabetes, you should be checked by your doctor periodically. However, you should see your doctor immediately if you are thirsty and urinate excessively; tire easily; have blurred vision or cuts that are slow to heal; feel tingling, numbness, or cramps in your legs, feet, or fingers; or have frequent skin infections or itchy skin. These are all classic symptoms of diabetes.
Injecting Insulin-Making Cells
In September 1984, in one of the most promising advances, researchers at the University of Miami transplanted the insulin-making cells of the pancreas (called islets) into dogs with diabetes. Their disease was completely and permanently reversed. Human patients now are being prepared for these revolutionary experiments. If the scientists are successful, they will, in effect, have done a pancreas transplant without surgery – only an injection of cells into the patient. Experiments are being carried out at a dozen institutions. As of this writing, scientists are still struggling to make transplants work for a long time in humans.
Another promising method involves wrapping the insulin-making cells in plastic. The plastic has microscopic holes that allow small molecules to enter the space where the cells are. The small energy-containing molecules can seep in to feed the cells. But the tiny holes will not allow larger, cell-killing molecules to attack the insulin-producing cells.