One way the body digests food is by turning it into a sugar called glucose. Glucose helps fuel your body's organs. The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin that helps move glucose out of the bloodstream and into the parts of the body that need it, including muscle, fat and liver cells.
Diabetes develops when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin—Type 1— or when the body cannot use insulin effectively—Type 2. Generally, diabetes must be managed for a lifetime.
Other forms of diabetes we treat include:
- Maturity onset diabetes of youth (MODY): MODY is caused by a mutation in a single gene that limits a person's ability to produce effective insulin; this condition may run in families and is often not diagnosed until adulthood, even though it is present from birth.
- Latent autoimmune diabetes (LADA): A type of diabetes that shows signs of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes; caused by an abnormal autoimmune response, in patients with LADA, pancreatic cells slowly lose their ability to produce insulin; often called Type 1.5 diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes: A form of diabetes developed during pregnancy.
The endocrinologists at MedStar Washington Hospital Center have vast experience managing diabetes, and our team includes national and international leaders in the field. We offer a multidisciplinary approach to care, collaborating with other specialists—and featuring the latest options such as continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps.
The team meets regularly and shares critical patient information. This improves communication and helps coordinate and monitor each patient’s condition.
Our goals in treating all types of diabetes include:
- Lowering and keeping blood sugar at appropriate levels
- Managing symptoms
- Preventing and managing complications
To do this, we collaborate with nutritionists, ophthalmologists, neurologists, cardiologists, general surgeons and wound care specialists, podiatrists, and diabetes educators.
Patients receive customized education, nutritional guidelines, and develop a treatment and medication plans to regulate glucose levels and manage their unique complications.
Patient education includes:
- Understanding the condition
- Learning to take medication and/or insulin regularly
- Keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels at acceptable levels
- Self-testing blood glucose levels regularly
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a consistent carbohydrate diet and controlling weight
- Caring for feet (diabetes damages nerves and blood vessels)
Latent autoimmune diabetes (LADA): In initial stages, we work with patients to keep blood sugar levels steady through a combination of careful meal planning, exercise and medication. When patients are no longer able to produce insulin, they will be treated with replacement insulin.
Gestational diabetes: Our team focuses on keeping both patients and babies healthy by working closely with the obstetrician to optimize the mother’s well-being and the baby's growth and development.
Management may include:
- A nutritious diet plan that includes fats and proteins, but reduces carbohydrates and limits sugar intake
- Prenatal vitamins and additional vitamin supplements
- Regular exercise
- Monitoring glucose levels, and in some cases, the use of insulin or diabetes medication.
The MedStar Health Research Institute conducts investigational and pharmacological therapies for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. When it’s appropriate, patients have the opportunity to participate in clinical research trials of innovative new treatments.
Endocrinologist Meeta Sharma, MD, is the chief of the diabetes team at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and works with programs throughout the system to standardize diabetes care. Endocrinologist Michelle Magee, MD, serves as director of the MedStar Diabetes Institute (MDI). In this capacity she leads and supports diabetes clinical, educational and research programs. Vanita Aroda, MD, serves as Scientific Director of the MedStar Community Clinical Research Center, overseeing the conduct of clinical trials.
For more information about participation in clinical research, call 301-560-2950. To learn more about our diabetes research program, visit MedStarHealth.org/mhri/research-areas.