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New Phenomenon of “Double Diabetes” Poses Greater Challenges for Detection and Treatment

Jul 19, 2005 | Doctors are identifying a new problem for diabetics, the risk of developing two forms of diabetes.

The treatment for diabetes depends in part on the subdivision of the disease into two forms:

• Type 1 diabetes occurs when a person’s immune system attacks the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. It develops quickly and its treatment requires insulin injections.

•Type 2 diabetes arises when the body can no longer properly process the insulin it produces.

Increasingly, however, doctors are seeing one form of diabetes leading to the other, or patients who do not clearly fit into one type or the other.

For example, at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, 25% of the young patients, who have Type 1 diabetes and who are overweight, are developing type two traits.

Martha Larkin, originally diagnosed as Type 1 at age three, has gained weight due in part to the greater levels of insulin required as her body acquired resistance. Insulin stimulates appetite, which can lead to obesity thereby raising the risk for the development of Type 2 diabetes.

Obesity, often associated with the development of Type 2 diabetes, also can heighten the risk of Type 1 especially in someone genetically inclined to get the disease.

Overweight individuals tend to need more insulin to produce glucose. As Dorothy Becker, pediatric endocrinologist speculates, “perhaps obesity overworks the pancreas until it wears out. Or perhaps obesity accelerates autoimmune deterioration.”

Scientists are still unsure if “double diabetics” will need a special course of treatment. The hope is that the condition can be prevented through weight loss for people with Type 2 and, for Type 1, by enrolling pregnant women from diabetes-prone families into a major study to track down what might protect children from the illness later in life. To enroll, check                   

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