We Have All The Time In The World To Find A Cure For DiabetesCommentary • Science & Technology • Opinion • death • science • disease • ISSUE 37•08 • Mar 7, 2001 By Dr. William C. Martz, Director - American Diabetes Foundation Dr. William C. Martz Director - American Diabetes Foundation Did you know that diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.? Seventh. That's really not that bad. Cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's–now those are bad. But diabetes is not exactly a disease we need to race against the clock to cure. Every day in this country, thousands of diabetes sufferers die of this disease and its complications. Of course, the vast majority of sufferers do not. All in all, we're only talking about 65,000 deaths per year, tops. Not 65 million, but 65,000. With the total U.S. population approaching 300 million, diabetes can hardly be called a national crisis. There is no huge rush. As director of the American Diabetes Foundation, I know all too well that diabetes isn't going anywhere. So when you consider making a financial contribution to ADF, think again. That money might be better spent on a more pressing ailment. After all, why panic over a disease that's not even in the top five? Our time and resources would certainly be better spent curing the number-one killer, heart disease, or even improving vehicle safety. Diabetes can be serious. It can cause heart disease, high blood pressure, blindness, and kidney failure. Luckily, these complications occur in just a small percentage of diabetes sufferers. Not only that, if you're suffering from these complications, chances are you're probably not following the treatment plan outlined by your doctor. So is it really fair to force a team of top medical researchers to skip their summer vacations to help a bunch of people who are irresponsible about their own health? Diabetes is a problem, but it's a problem most of us can live with. And while it's true that diabetes cases are rising, they're doing so in accordance with rising levels of obesity–exactly what we thought would happen. This definitely isn't AIDS. Diabetes is not contagious or mysterious. It's not like we need to hold some major world conference or sew a diabetes quilt or anything. They say slow and steady wins the race. That's why our goal is to eradicate this semi-dread disease by 2340. Top medical professionals across the nation will be working on it, but they certainly shouldn't feel any huge pressure. We must forge ahead in search of a cure for diabetes, but we must remember that diabetes researchers have lives and families, too. You may not have diabetes, but, chances are, you know someone who does. Or, at least, you know someone who knows someone who does. Not that you'd ever ask around to find that out. That would be weird. But let's just assume there's some friend of a friend out there with diabetes. That person, assuming he or she is under the care of a qualified physician, really doesn't need your help. As long as that person takes insulin, minds his or her health and diet, and visits the doctor regularly, he or she should be able to lead a normal life. No need to panic there. All Americans should be aware of the serious complications of diabetes. Or at least those Americans who actually have diabetes. Luckily, clinics and hospitals already have tons of informational pamphlets and brochures that can be distributed to diabetics. So there really isn't much to do in the awareness-raising arena, either. As ADF director, I care a great deal about diabetes. But, keeping things in perspective, I realize that diabetes isn't important to every person in the country. That would be selfish of me to expect others to care about diabetes as much as I do just because it's my particular field. It certainly wouldn't mean much to me if I were, say, an electrician. And I certainly wouldn't like it if some electrician were constantly hassling me about wire safety or something. At this very moment, scientists are exploring numerous possible cures for diabetes. They're experimenting with pancreas transplants and artificial pancreases. Other researchers are attempting to cure diabetes through genetic manipulation. But that kind of cure is way off. Way, way off. Besides, if medical science ever does master genetic manipulation, we'd certainly be better off using it to eliminate something like multiple sclerosis. The important thing to remember, though, is that no matter what diabetes cure lies ahead, it can happen without your help. Well, who knows what the future holds in store? Let's hope it brings a cure, you know, sooner or later.