Review of Last 50 Years of Diabetes in the United States

From how people test their glucose levels to how long they can expect to live, almost everything has changed over the past 50 years for Americans with diabetes. A special symposium, held during the American Diabetes Association's (ADA’s) 75th Scientific Sessions taking place June 5-June 9, 2015 in Boston, featured a look back at what physicians and researchers have learned and how the lives of patients have changed during the past five decades. "There are things that have happened over the past 50 years that clearly make life a lot better for people," said Fred Whitehouse, M.D., Division Head Emeritus at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, who has been treating people with diabetes for just as long. For example, when Dr. Whitehouse first started seeing patients the only option for the treatment of type 1 diabetes was to inject animal insulin, which came from cows or pigs and sometimes caused adverse reactions in people. Today, human insulin produced by microorganisms is used, an important difference, because not only are there fewer adverse reactions, there's no fear of running out of it, he said. What's more, there are now long- and rapid-acting insulins and a variety of delivery systems, including insulin pumps, which improve accuracy and comfort while tightening blood glucose control and reducing hypoglycemia. The way glucose levels are tested has also changed dramatically, said Dr. Whitehouse. Whereas once the only way to assess diabetes control was by testing for the presence of sugar in a person's urine, today there are numerous, far more accurate ways to test blood glucose levels, including the non-invasive A1C, which measures average blood glucose levels over a three-month period. "This gives us a nice marker for showing whether a person is on the right road or not," Dr.
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