Double diabetes means double trouble

December 12, 2012

Three million Americans are living with type 1 diabetes and almost 24 million have type 2. Now, there's a growing threat to many of them.

Diabetes is a disease Doctor Steve Edelman knows all too well.

"I got diabetes when I was 15. I was super tired. I would fall asleep in class. I had excessive thirst," Steve Edelman, University of California San Diego Diabetes Specialist, tells Ivanhoe.

He has type 1 diabetes, a disease that used to be called juvenile diabetes but can hit at any age. He keeps it under control with an insulin pump. On the flip side, his patient Dara Elstein was diagnosed with type 2, a genetic disease made worse by poor diet and lack of exercise. In type two, there is either not enough insulin or the body is resistant to it.

"I was drinking probably close to 70 to 80 ounces of water in about a three hour time sitting," says diabetes patient Dara Elstein.

Drugs helped Dara lose 70 pounds. The dramatic weight loss should have helped her get off her medications for type 2, but it didn't. Tests revealed she had double diabetes.

"It means you have both type 1 and type 2 diabetes together," explains Dr. Edelman.

"I didn't even know that was a possibility," says Dara.

Doctors are seeing it more and more. Double diabetes can hit those with type 1 or type 2. If not treated, patients can experience symptoms of both diseases like increased thirst and frequent urination, blurred vision, slow-healing sores and frequent infections. Now that Dara knows she has it, she's trying to control it by keeping a close eye on her glucose monitor, taking daily pills and giving herself up to nine insulin shots a day.

Dara says that, "For me it's a constant struggle."

A struggle she will continue to fight and more people will likely have to fight, too.

The latest hope for diabetes comes is an artificial pancreas that's in the works. It automatically monitors blood sugar levels and deals with any problems instantly, without the patient checking levels or giving themselves shots.

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