By Reporter
NBC News
updated 12/14/2004 3:53:04 PM ET 2004-12-14T20:53:04

The news of a new human trial in an effort to find a vaccine for Type 1 diabetes comes of particular interest to me as I was diagnosed with the condition nearly five years ago.

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While the vaccine may be too late to stop any further deterioration of my insulin-producing cells, it could at least prevent me from passing it on to my children if I have a family.

When I first fell ill, I didn’t realize that I was exhibiting the classic symptoms of diabetes — constant thirst, the need to visit the toilet more frequently than usual, and a drastic amount of weight loss.

Luckily, my doctor recognized the symptoms and I was admitted to the hospital quickly enough to stabilize my condition.

The reason for my diagnosis is still a mystery; none of my blood relations have ever been diagnosed with diabetes, Type 1 or 2. 

The exact cause of diabetes is thought to be buried deep within a person’s genetic makeup and makes the individual susceptible to external environmental factors that cause the body to attack itself (an autoimmune response), destroying the insulin-producing cells in the body.

Constant monitoring of blood sugar
Since I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, my life has involved a constant monitoring of blood-sugar levels, the food I eat (I am now an expert on reading the nutritional information panels on the back of store-bought foods), the amount of insulin I inject, and ensuring I do at least some form of physical exercise on a daily basis, even if I can’t get to the gym. 

The condition doesn’t rule my life. I prefer to think of myself as having diabetes, not as being a diabetic. 

Most days pass without incident, but it is always at the back of my mind. Most importantly, I make sure that I always have some quick-acting carbohydrate (a Snickers bar normally does the trick) with me whenever I go out and don't forget my insulin pen.

Even my wife can now tell when my blood-sugar levels are either too high or too low, and advises me accordingly.

I will be watching with great interest to see how the trials to find a vaccine progress and how the outcomes may affect my life.

“This is a disease which affects perhaps one in 200 individuals in the U.K. but is on the increase, particularly in children. It’s a disease that we need to get on top of,” said Professor Mark Peakman, a co-researcher from Kings College, London.

I couldn't agree more.

Matthew Wilson is the NBC News London Bureau Coordinator.


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