When medicines and lifestyle changes are not enough to manage your diabetes, a less common treatment may be an option. Other treatments include bariatric surgery for certain people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, and an “artificial pancreas” and pancreatic islet transplantation for some people with type 1 diabetes.
Also called weight-loss surgery or metabolic surgery, bariatric surgery may help some people with obesity and type 2 diabetes lose a large amount of weight and regain normal blood glucose levels. Some people with diabetes may no longer need their diabetes medicine after bariatric surgery. Whether and for how long blood glucose levels improve seems to vary by the patient, type of weight-loss surgery, and amount of weight the person loses. Other factors include how long someone has had diabetes and whether or not the person uses insulin.1
Recent research suggests that weight-loss surgery also may help improve blood glucose control in people with type 1 diabetes who are obese.2
Researchers are studying the long-term results of bariatric surgery in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
The NIDDK has played an important role in developing “artificial pancreas” technology. An artificial pancreas replaces manual blood glucose testing and the use of insulin shots or a pump. A single system monitors blood glucose levels around the clock and provides insulin or a combination of insulin and a second hormone, glucagon, automatically. The system can also be monitored remotely, for example by parents or medical staff.
In 2016, the FDA approved a type of artificial pancreas system called a hybrid closed-loop system. This system tests your glucose level every 5 minutes throughout the day and night, and automatically gives you the right amount of insulin.
You still need to manually adjust the amount of insulin the pump delivers at mealtimes. But, the artificial pancreas may free you from some of the daily tasks needed to keep your blood glucose stable—or help you sleep through the night without the need to wake and test your glucose or take medicine.
The hybrid closed-loop system is expected to be available in the U.S. in 2017. Talk with your health care provider about whether this system might be right for you.
The NIDDK has funded several important studies on different types of artificial pancreas devices to help better people with type 1 diabetes manage their disease. The devices may also help people with type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.
Pancreatic islet transplantation
Pancreatic islet transplantation is an experimental treatment for poorly controlled type 1 diabetes. Pancreatic islets are clusters of cells in the pancreas that make the hormone insulin. In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks these cells. A pancreatic islet transplant replaces destroyed islets with new ones that make and release insulin. This procedure takes islets from the pancreas of an organ donor and transfers them to a person with type 1 diabetes. Because researchers are still studying pancreatic islet transplantation, the procedure is only available to people enrolled in research studies. Learn more about islet transplantation studies.