The Alarm That Can Save Diabetics' Lives (So Why Is the NHS Rationing Them?)

Daily Mail (London), April 13, 2010 | Go to article overview

The Alarm That Can Save Diabetics' Lives (So Why Is the NHS Rationing Them?)


Byline: JUDY HOBSON

Angela Wise was saved by the bell after a long country walk sent her into a diabetic coma. she is one of the first to use a new sensor-controlled insulin pump that detects dangerously low levels of blood sugar and sets off a deafening alarm.

angela, 48, a financial services trainer from Harrogate, Yorkshire, has had Type 1 diabetes since she was 18. she says: 'My husband Dennis and i had been out walking. i sat down for a cup of tea and fell asleep, not realising i was falling into a diabetic coma.

'luckily the alarm sounded and the pump automatically switched itself off. My husband rushed to help. The alarm almost deafened him, but i didn't remember anything.' Dennis, 55, put glucose tablets on angela's tongue and made her a cup of sugary coffee. Within ten minutes she was back to normal.

Type 1 diabetes, which affects about 300,000 Britons, is an auto-immune disease with a suspected genetic link. it leaves the pancreas unable to produce insulin, the hormone essen-tial for moving sugar out of the blood and into the body cells for energy. if it is not treated, or is poorly managed, the long-term risks are kidney failure, blindness, coma and even death.

There is no cure, but it can be controlled by injecting insulin. Until now, diabetics regularly had to measure the blood sugar levels to know how much insulin to inject, but these new pumps give a continuous stream of insulin into the body. The device delivers insulin through a tube, just below the skin, at a constant rate.

even with this pump, patients may still suffer a hypoglycaemic attack -- when sugar levels fall so low the brain doesn't have enough energy to function, causing fainting, seizures or coma. The is the first pump to set off an alarm when this happens.

For some, the signs are visible: shakiness, tingling in the lips, pounding heart, paleness, confusion and irritability. Others have no signs and one third of attacks occur during sleep. about 16,000 people a year are admitted to hospital with hypoglycaemia.

The attacks, or 'hypos', are more common in Type 1 diabetics. Hypos can be caused when the patient has taken too much diabetes medication, has not eaten enough carbohydrate or has taken part in unplanned exercise.

angela says: 'if i'd been on my own, the alarm is so loud it would have attracted someone's attention and they would have seen the message on my monitor telling them to call 999. Pumps like this make diabetes control easier. i was on injections for more than 20 years, but they were embarrassing and inconvenient.' angela had her first insulin pump nine years ago and was put on the new pump last year. Continuous glucose measurements are taken via a sensor inserted under the skin using a needle -- no surgery is involved. The data is sent via radio signals to a transmitter attached with an adhesive patch to the skin, and then transmitted to the monitor, which is the size of a mobile phone.

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The Alarm That Can Save Diabetics' Lives (So Why Is the NHS Rationing Them?)
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