November 9, 1994
Media Contact:Gary Stephenson
Phone: (410) 955-5384
The Johns Hopkins Diabetes Center is celebrating its 10th anniversary during November, marking a decade of research and education that has helped more than 2,000 patients limit or reverse the medical complications of the disease.
Key to the Center's overall success is a one-week course that teaches patients to control blood sugar levels with proper diet, exercise and medication, according to Cindy Shump, R.N., a nurse educator at the center. The center has a full-time staff of three, and specialists from the division of endocrinology, as well as the community, who volunteer their time.
"Diabetes is serious but it can be controlled," says Shump. "We design an individual plan for each patient. And because stress can increase blood sugar levels, they learn coping skills to help reduce stress."
"Ten years ago, blood sugar testing was unusual and a thorough understanding of diabetes among patients was even less common," says Christopher Saudek, M.D., director of the center. "Now it's very clear that the complications of diabetes nerve and kidney disease, loss of vision and severe circulatory disease can be reduced by controlling blood sugar. This knowledge has encouraged people with diabetes to become educated about how to manage their blood sugar."
"Within a month, my blood sugar dropped and I didn't need insulin at all," says Roseanne Gilmore, 50, who took the course at the Diabetes Center after diagnosis about three years ago. "I've lost weight, my blood sugar is still dropping and I feel better than I have in years," says Gilmore, a financial adviser whose mother died of complications of diabetes.
The center also has advanced the success of a surgically implanted investigational insulin pump developed by Saudek. More than 500 pumps have been implanted worldwide in the eight years since its introduction.
The patient-controlled pump, which is placed under the skin in the abdomen, uses a small, computerized radio-wave transmitter to program the pump just before a meal. The pump releases insulin at a rate adjusted to his or her exact needs. This close control of insulin helps to limit or prevent potential complications of diabetes, such as blindness and diseases of the kidney and nervous system.
"The Diabetes Center saved my life," says Samuel Zaccari, who had a pump implanted eight years ago. "The pump saved my sight. For 20 years, I denied to myself that I had diabetes." Zaccari, who is now a volunteer at the center helping to teach new patients the dangers of denial and the benefits of controlling their blood sugar, holds the record for having the pump for the longest time.
The effectiveness of the Center's intensive approach to monitoring blood sugar levels and treatment with insulin was confirmed last year by a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine by researchers from the National Institutes of Health and medical institutions throughout the United States.
The study found that intensive therapy of the sort the Diabetes Center had been doing for almost 10 years delays the onset and slows progression of complications.
According to the National Diabetes Data Group of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Diseases, there are 14 million people with diabetes in the United States, about half of whom are not even diagnosed. Diabetes affects minorities disproportionately, and when not adequately treated, is a major cause of amputations, end-stage kidney disease and blindness.
For more information about the Diabetes Center, call 955-5714.