A Guide to Diabetes and Clinical Trials

General-medicine

Most of the food that enters our bodies is broken down into sugar (glucose). This sugar then enters the bloodstream, causing blood sugar levels to rise and the pancreas to release insulin. Together, blood sugar and insulin determine how our body uses food for energy. 

However, some people’s bodies cannot : 

  • Produce enough insulin on their own or
  • Properly use the insulin they create

We refer to this chronic health condition as diabetes. Patients with diabetes experience serious problems with their blood sugar levels, which can result in other issues such as heart disease, vision loss, or kidney disease.

What Are the Types of Diabetes?

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is thought to be unpreventable and is typically diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults. These patients make up 5 to 10% of all diabetes patients whose bodies are not able to produce the necessary amounts of insulin.

Children and adults with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin supplements every day to supplement their inefficient production – for their entire lives. Although there is no cure for diabetes, there are certain steps type 1 patients can take to minimize their symptoms.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is different from type 1 in that the body can produce insulin – but it doesn’t use it well and/or struggles to keep blood sugar levels normalized. Up to 95% of patients with diabetes have type 2, and they may develop the condition later in life due to lifestyle changes and habits.

Although type 2 diabetes is also considered a chronic condition, it is considered to be more preventable than type 1. Therefore, it is important to watch for the warning signs and get your blood sugar regularly tested if you are at risk.

Prediabetes

As the name indicates, prediabetes is the step below type 2 diabetes. Patients with this condition are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes, as well as heart diseases and other serious health problems. 

In the United States, it’s estimated that up to 96 million adults have prediabetes. Unfortunately, a large majority of these adults are not aware that they have prediabetes. At-risk patients must be aware of the warning signs and participate in regular testing.

What Causes Type 1 Diabetes?

We don’t know exactly why type 1 diabetes occurs. We know that it presents itself when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the pancreas’ insulin-producing beta cells. However, scientists are still studying the genes and environmental factors that may trigger this attack.

What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?

This is a much more complicated question. There are many factors that can contribute to the insulin resistance and the development of type 2 diabetes, including:

Research tells us that patients are at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes if they are not physically active and are overweight (or obese). Extra weight can increase the likelihood of insulin resistance, especially when the fat is gained around the belly.

Certain genes may make patients more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The condition tends to run in families, and the risk is often passed down in these racial/ethnic groups:

  • Hispanics/Latinos
  • Native Hawaiians
  • Pacific Islanders
  • African Americans
  • Alaska Natives
  • American Indians
  • Asian Americans

Genetic factors can also play a role in the risk of weight gain, which thereby increases a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes.

Scientists have learned that some hormonal diseases cause the body to produce an excess of certain hormones, resulting in insulin resistance and diabetes.

Endocrine system disorders are often associated with diabetes. When hormones are overproduced, it can ignite a hyperglycaemic effect, which then leads to impaired glucose tolerance (and eventually, the manifestation of diabetes). 

Pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, and trauma to the pancreas can all compromise beta cells’ ability to produce insulin, resulting in diabetes. Furthermore, if a damaged pancreas is removed via surgery, diabetes will occur due to the lack of beta cells.

Research has found that certain medicines can harm beta cells or disrupt the way insulin works within the body, thereby resulting in diabetes. These medicines can include:

  • Anti-seizure drugs
  • Psychiatric drugs
  • Niacin
  • Pentamidine
  • Certain types of diuretics (water pills)
  • Drugs to treat human immunodeficiency virus 
  • Glucocorticoids (used to treat inflammatory illnesses) 
  • Anti-rejection medicines after organ transplants

If you are taking any of these medicines and are concerned about their side effects, or have some diabetic symptoms, speak with your doctor.

What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes?

Although the signs of type 1 diabetes may manifest quite suddenly, type 2 symptoms tend to develop slowly – likely over the course of years rather than weeks or months. Some patients with type 2 diabetes never manifest significant symptoms, which can make the condition difficult to diagnose. 

For both types of diabetes, the most overt symptoms may include:

  • unusual thirst 
  • frequent urination
  • increased hunger
  • unexplained weight loss
  • fatigue
  • blurred vision
  • numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
  • sores that do not heal at an average speed

If you have noticed any of these symptoms in yourself or your loved one, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your doctor immediately. 

Match With Diabetes Clinical Trials

Have you been diagnosed with diabetes or diabetic peripheral neuropathy? You may qualify for a trial near you. Tandem Clinical can match you with:

  • Cutting-edge treatments
  • The latest clinical studies

How is Diabetes Diagnosed?

There are a few ways in which diabetes can be diagnosed. Most commonly, doctors will perform one or multiple of the following:

Glycated Hemoglobin (A1C) Test

The AC1 test is a popular blood testing method that does not require fasting. The results will indicate the patient’s average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months. It will also measure the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin. 

An A1C level of 6.5% or higher on two separate tests indicates diabetes. Levels between 5.7% and 6.4% indicate prediabetes, and levels below 5.7% are considered normal.

However, certain factors can make the A1C test inaccurate. It cannot be used on pregnant patients or those with hemoglobin variants. 

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test

Some doctors may request patients to fast overnight, then arrive the next morning and drink a sugary liquid. The blood sugar levels are then tested periodically for the next two hours after consumption. 

With these types of tests, a reading of more than 200 mg/dL after two hours indicates diabetes. A reading between 140 and 199 mg/dL indicates prediabetes. 

Random Blood Sugar Test

Blood samples taken at random times can provide insight into blood sugar levels. If the blood sugar level is above 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), the likelihood of diabetes is high.

Fasting Blood Sugar Test

This kind of blood sugar test occurs after a patient has fasted (not eaten) overnight. In this case, if the blood sugar level is over 126 mg/dL on two separate tests, the patient has diabetes.

Urine Test

When testing for type 1 diabetes, most doctors will also test the patient’s urine for the presence of glucose and protein. If the protein or glucose levels are too high, the patient may have diabetes.

Treating Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes treatment involves insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump. It can also include frequent blood sugar checks and carbohydrate counting. 

Type 2 diabetes treatment primarily involves lifestyle changes, monitoring blood sugar levels, and likely taking diabetes medications, insulin, or both.

The first step in most treatment plans is to check and record the patient’s blood sugar readings – often four times a day or more. This is the best way to keep blood sugars within their target range, especially if you have type 1 diabetes.

In addition to daily blood sugar monitoring, doctors often recommend regular A1C testing. This can provide insight into how the blood sugar management plan is working overall.

All patients with type 1 diabetes require insulin therapy, as do most people with type 2 diabetes. This is typically injected using a fine needle or insulin pen. Many patients also opt for an insulin pump, which injects insulin via a catheter inserted under the skin of the abdomen.

Tubeless pumps are also available now. Patients can program an insulin pump to dispense specific amounts of insulin, depending on their schedule and insulin needs.

Some medications may be prescribed to stimulate the pancreas to produce and release more insulin. Others are used to inhibit the production and release of glucose from the liver, which lowers the need for insulin in the body.

Treating Prediabetes

The most recommended treatment for prediabetes is altering lifestyle choices to promote health and weight loss. Losing weight and eating well can help normalize blood sugar levels, alleviate the risk for type 2 diabetes, and minimize prediabetic symptoms.

Treatment plans often include: 

  • Exercising for at least 2.5 hours weekly
  • Losing roughly 7% of body weight 
  • Eating low-fat, nutritious meals 
  • Lowering cholesterol intake
  • Taking some prescribed medications 

If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, talk to your doctor about implementing sustainable, healthy life changes that can stall the progression of your condition.

Diabetes Clinical Trials

Have you been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes? If so, you have the opportunity to participate in clinical studies and help researchers learn more about the condition – for your benefit and for the future treatment of other patients. 

Scientists are studying many aspects of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as well as diabetic peripheral neuropathy. This includes the assessment of: 

  • New treatments for diabetes
  • How diabetes symptoms develop and progress 
  • Potential risk factors for diabetes types 1 and 2 
  • How genes and environmental factors increase the risk of diabetes

All of these diabetic clinical trials are carried out in trusted hospitals, universities, and research centers. If you’re interested in participating in a trial, contact us to learn about the opportunities in your immediate area. 

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What Is Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy?

Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can present itself in patients with diabetes. High blood sugar levels can damage nerves throughout the body, most commonly in the feet and legs. This can then result in feelings of pain and numbness in the hands, feet, and legs. 

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is the most common form of diabetic neuropathy. Symptoms can include: 

  • Tingling or burning sensations
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Foot problems (ulcers, infections, etc.) 
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sharp pains or cramps
  • Numbness/reduced sensitivity to pain or temperature 

Some patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy have mild symptoms. For others, the condition can be painful and even disabling.

Unfortunately, diabetic neuropathy may affect as many as 50% of people with diabetes. The best way to prevent the condition or slow its progress is with consistent blood sugar management and healthy lifestyle habits.

Match with Diabetic Clinical Trials

Tandem Clinical Research specializes in connecting patients with clinical trials offered by pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies. If you live near New York, Orlando, or New Orleans, we are happy to connect you with trials in your area. 

Diabetes treatment may seem like a neverending fight – but there’s research taking place right now to find new treatments and diagnosis methods. 

Consider joining a clinical trial to contribute to the scientific study of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as well as diabetic peripheral neuropathy.