When family members are afflicted with diseases for which there is no family history — e.g., a younger sister who had enough precancerous breast cells to justify a double mastectomy at age 40 — my siblings and I swallow our anger about our chemical-laden society and go into research mode.
With the help of the Internet my family has accessed medical review articles and Mom blogs that have provided a wealth of information, opinions and medical propaganda that we patiently sift through in order to identify accurate data. We've come across many false leads, but usually find some positive directions to help us with treating family illness.
With the most recently afflicted young family member, though, I’m getting increasingly upset…
Last week my active, twelve-year old niece was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This brave relative has struggled with allergies since she was born — first, a dairy allergy diagnosed while she was breast-feeding, then a peanut allergy as a toddler. Our family learned to carry an EpiPen and ask a lot of questions at restaurants. Now -- just on the cusp of becoming a teenager — this niece must handle another lifelong immune system affliction, one that a shocking number of youth are living with as well.
On the blog Diabetes Mine, I found a reference to Diabetes Rising: How a Rare Disease Became a Modern Pandemic, and What to Do About It, written by Dan Hurley, an award-winning NY Times journalist who has lived with diabetes for 30 years. According to Hurley in an NPR report, “Type 1 diabetes is now twice as common as it was 20 years ago and five times more common than it was after World War II.”
What is going on? In June 2012 a new CDC-NIH study reported at the American Diabetes Association meeting that the prevalence of type 1 and type 2 diabetes in American youth has increased 23 and 21 percent, respectively, from 2001-2009. That’s over a 20 percent jump in less than a decade! This is the kind of report that should drive Mom blogs wild…
No one really knows the causes for these rapidly increasing numbers. Too much milk? Too many antibiotics? Too many organic pollutants? Numbers are greater in more developed countries. Girls are slightly higher in number than boys. Caucasians are hit harder than other races for type 1 diabetes; African-Americans and other ethnic groups fare worse for type 2.
So why don’t we take some of the advantages of living in a wealthier nation and throw them at identifying the escalating causes of juvenile diabetes? As Hurley writes, we cannot allow the pharmaceutical industry to direct research primarily towards managing this disease with expensive, lifelong commitments to drugs and devices. We need new studies aimed at the causes and cures for diabetes so we can end this struggle.
Anyone with helpful new research or suggestions about managing juvenile diabetes?