Lifestyle modification

For most Type 1 diabetics there will always be a need for insulin injections throughout their life. However, both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics can see dramatic normalization of their blood sugars through controlling their diet, and some Type 2 diabetics can fully control the disease by dietary modification. As diabetes can lead to many other complications it is critical to maintain blood sugars as close to normal as possible and diet is the leading factor in this level of control.

The American Diabetes Association in 1994 recommended that 60-70% of caloric intake should be in the form of carbohydrates. This is somewhat controversial, with some researchers claiming that 40% is better, while others claim benefits for a high-fiber, 75% carbohydrate diet.

An article summarizing the view of the American Diabetes Association gives many recommendations and references to the research. One of the conclusions is that caloric intake must be limited to that which is necessary for maintaining a healthy weight. The methodology of the dietary therapy has attracted lots of attentions from many scientific researchers and the protocols are ranging from nutritional balancing to ambulatory diet-care.

Currently, one goal for diabetics is to avoid or minimize chronic diabetic complications, as well as to avoid acute problems of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia. Adequate control of diabetes leads to lower risk of complications associated with unmonitored diabetes including kidney failure (requiring dialysis or transplant), blindness, heart disease and limb amputation. The most prevalent form of medication is hypoglycemic treatment through either oral hypoglycemics and/or insulin therapy. There is emerging evidence that full-blown diabetes mellitus type 2 can be evaded in those with only mildly impaired glucose tolerance.

Patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus require direct injection of insulin as their bodies cannot produce enough (or even any) insulin. As of 2005, there is no other clinically available form of insulin administration other than injection for patients with type 1: injection can be done by insulin pump, by jet injector, or any of several forms of hypodermic needle. Non-injective methods of insulin administration have been unattainable as the insulin protein breaks down in the digestive track. There are several insulin application mechanisms under experimental development as of 2004, including a capsule that passes to the liver and delivers insulin into the bloodstream[39]. There have also been proposed vaccines for type I using glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), but these are currently not being tested by the pharmaceutical companies that have sublicensed the patents to them.

For type 2 diabetics, diabetic management consists of a combination of diet, exercise, and weight loss, in any achievable combination depending on the patient. Obesity is very common in type 2 diabetes and contributes greatly to insulin resistance. Weight reduction and exercise improve tissue sensitivity to insulin and allow its proper use by target tissues.[40] Patients who have poor diabetic control after lifestyle modifications are typically placed on oral hypoglycemics. Some Type 2 diabetics eventually fail to respond to these and must proceed to insulin therapy.

Patient education and compliance with treatment is very important in managing the disease. Improper use of medications and insulin can be very dangerous causing hypo- or hyper-glycemic episodes.

Insulin therapy requires close monitoring and a great deal of patient education, as improper administration is quite dangerous. For example, when food intake is reduced, less insulin is required. A previously satisfactory dosing may be too much if less food is consumed causing a hypoglycemic reaction if not intelligently adjusted. In addition, exercise decreases insulin requirements as exercise increases glucose uptake by body cells whose glucose uptake is controlled by insulin, and vice versa. In addition, there are available several types of insulin with varying times of onset and duration of action.

Insulin therapy creates risk because of the inability to continuously know a person's blood glucose level and adjust insulin infusion appropriately. New advances in technology have overcome much of this problem. Small, portable insulin infusion pumps are available from several manufacturers. They allow a continuous infusion of small amounts of insulin to be delivered through the skin around the clock, plus the ability to give bolus doses when a person eats or has elevated blood glucose levels. This is very similar to how the pancreas works, but these pumps lack a continuous "feed-back" mechanism. Thus, the user is still at risk of giving too much or too little insulin unless blood glucose measurements are made. A further danger of insulin treatment is that while diabetic microangiopathy is usually explained as the result of hyperglycemia, studies in rats indicate that the higher than normal level of insulin diabetics inject to control their hyperglycemia may itself promote small blood vessel disease.] While there is no clear evidence that controlling hyperglycemia reduces diabetic macrovascular and cardiovascular disease, there are indications that intensive efforts to normalize blood glucose levels may worsen cardiovascular and all-cause diabetic mortality.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a treatment called Exenatide, based on the saliva of a Gila monster, to control blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Other regimens
Artificial Intelligence researcher Dr. Cynthia Marling, of the Ohio University Russ College of Engineering and Technology, in collaboration with the Appalachian Rural Health Institute Diabetes Center, is developing a case based reasoning system to aid in diabetes management. The goal of the project is to provide automated intelligent decision support to diabetes patients and their professional care providers by interpreting the ever increasing quantities of data provided by current diabetes management technology and translating it into better care without time consuming manual effort on the part of an endocrinologist or diabetologist.[42] This type of Artificial Intelligence-based treatment shows some promise with initial testing of a prototype system producing best practice treatment advice which anaylizing physicians deemed to have some degree of benefit over 70% of the time and advice of neutral benefit another nearly 25% of the time.

Use of a "Diabetes Coach" is becoming an increasingly popular way to manage diabetes. A Diabetes Coach is usually a Certified diabetes educator (CDE) who is trained to help people in all aspects of caring for their diabetes. The CDE can advise the patient on diet, medications, proper use of insulin injections and pumps, exercise, and other ways to manage diabetes while living a healthy and active lifestyle. CDEs can be found locally or by contacting a company which provides personalized diabetes care using CDEs, such as Fit4D. Diabetes Coaches can speak to a patient on a pay-per-call basis or via a monthly plan.