Young, old, black and white, diabetes can hit anyone, at any time. Along with the 26 million people who know they have it, millions remain undiagnosed.
Now, there's a new tool helping to identify the disease in record time, and it's changing the way doctors believe it affects the body.
The leading cause of adult blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease, and lower limb amputation, is diabetes. If trends continue, one in three American kids born in the year 2000 will develop it. But that doesn't mean they'll know they have the disease. Right now, seven million diabetics are undiagnosed in the US.
Autumn Russ, a diabetic, describes what first lead her to learning she was diabetic. "I started getting dizzy, and I started getting really tired easily."
Russ recently got her diagnosis. Now, she's part of a study, testing how this machine can assess her risk for serious diabetes complications.
Pediatric Endocrinologist Dr. Stuart Chalew describes the old way of testing for diabetes, "Prior to this, the only way you could do this was actually doing a skin biopsy."
Dr. Chalew says the screening device uses light instead of an invasive skin biopsy and lab testing to measure abnormal proteins in the skin associated with diabetes complications. A patient puts their arm on it, and in moments the results are in.
Monitoring blood glucose levels is currently one of the best ways to determine risk for complication. But this machine could prove to be quicker and more effective.
Dr. Chalew describes why it works better, "Two people with the same blood glucose may have very different levels of glycated proteins."
High levels can mean higher risk. Scientists are working on new therapies to lower those chances.
For kids like Autumn, and even adults, the system could also be valuable. It's being tested as a way to quickly screen large numbers of people for diabetes, without the need for a blood draw.
The device launched as part of a pilot program in Canada back in September. It's currently restricted to investigational use in the US, but could get FDA approval by 2013.