Millions of people around the globe either have diabetes or are in danger of developing it. Diabetes is a disease that can cause kidney failure, blindness and even death. But now there's a new surgical procedure that can help diabetes, and new ways to treat or prevent the disease.
Millions of people with slightly elevated levels of sugar in their blood can develop diabetes without even knowing it. Carlos Wharton did not realize something was wrong until he lost most of his eyesight.
"There was no warning sign, if you will. It was just something that hit me all at once."
Now there may be help for people like Carlos Wharton. Researchers found Avandia...a drug used to treat diabetes... can help prevent high risk patients from getting the disease.
Dr. Robin Goland of Columbia University Medical Center in New York.
"Preventing diabetes is so important because it will prevent all the pain and suffering that will come along with a late diagnosis and complications."
According to researchers, people who take Avandia daily over time are 60 percent less likely to develop diabetes than high risk patients who do not take the drug. But the same benefits can be gained through daily exercise and a five to seven percent weight loss.
Another treatment involves an inhalable powdered form of insulin. It's called Exubera. Once inhaled, it is quickly absorbed by the bloodstream. Jamie Villastrigo says Exubera makes it easy for her to keep her blood sugar levels in a normal range.
"I don't have the anxiety for taking the insulin in front of people. You're not embarrassed to do the inhaler. You are able to just do it and continue with your normal activities."
Taking a non-injectable form of insulin is easier for many patients.
Dr. Sherwyn Schwartz heads the Diabetes and Glandular Disease Clinic in San Antonio, Texas.
"Unfortunately, many people are reluctant or hesitant to take care of their diabetes properly with use of injectable insulin."
Pfizer is the company that makes Exubera. Pfizer says Exubera should not be used by smokers or people with lung disease but it can be used by adult diabetics even if they are exposed to cigarette smoke or have a cold.
Exubera can be used alone or in combination with diabetes pills or longer-acting insulin.
In yet another development, Canadian researchers found if they take pancreas cells from a healthy donor and transplant them into a diabetic patient, the surgery can free some diabetics from needing daily insulin...at least for a year or two. Others still needed insulin but were less affected by severe drops in their blood sugar levels after the surgery.
Experts say this surgery could help some diabetes patients whose disease is difficult to control. Ideally, these cells could one day be grown in the laboratory from stem cells.