Friday, April 22, 2011

Medical studies: Should you participate?

I don't often blog about it, but I participate in medical studies fairly frequently.  I've done one study on continuous glucose monitors, two on new kinds of insulin, and one on a new kind of glucose monitor.

No matter what the study is, I generally enjoy participating very much.  I wish I could say that I do it to help out the study of diabetes and to benefit other diabetics, but I'm afraid I'm not that noble.  Some of the biggest reasons I do it are because I get to try out cool new medicines and gadgets for free, because the studies generally pay for all of my supplies, and because on top of all that, I get paid for it too.  It's not a ton of money, but it's a nice little bonus, especially at the end of a long study.

How much they pay varies from study to study.  I recently did one that paid $100 for just one day.  That made getting up at 5:30am in order to get to my doctor's office by 6am totally worth it!  Other studies may just pay $30 or $40 per office visit, but when you're in a study that lasts for months, that can really add up (and they pay it all at the end).  I was in another study where I got a gas card every time I came in, which was highly appreciated considering gas prices lately, and the fact that I live across town from my doctor's office.

It also varies whether the medicine you get to try out really has any benefit to you.  I didn't get to try out the new glucose meter, for instance, just had to give some blood for testing purposes.  For one of the insulin studies I was in, I was actually randomly put into the control group, so I didn't get to try out the new insulin at all.  (I didn't mind much, though, since they still paid for all my supplies during the study.)  Another study I did, however, introduced me to a fantastic new type of insulin that I will be switching to the instance the FDA approves it.

Finally, not everyone feels this way, but I find the studies to be very interesting.  I like getting to see firsthand the process that companies have to go through in order to gather enough data to submit their medicine or device to the FDA.  I like meeting other people in the studies, both the other participants and the research assistants.  I haven't had the pleasure of knowing other diabetics, so it's always nice to talk to others with the same condition.

My point is, though, that there are a lot of good reasons for participating in medical studies, and not all of them are altruistic.  In my opinion it's well worth asking your doctor's office if they have any opportunities for you to participate in studies, and if not, where else you can check.  It seems like university hospitals have the most opportunities, but some studies will even be advertised on Craigslist!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Diabetes book review: Diabetes for Dummies, Mini Edition

iconRecently I bought a Nook, so when I saw the ebook of Diabetes for Dummies Mini Ediiton on sale for only 99 cents, it seemed like a good one to get and review on Proud Diabetic.

First of all, when they say "Mini Edition," they really mean it — the book is only 40 pages long.  It also could be called "Beginner's Edition" or "Intro Edition," because most of it is pretty basic information.  It starts out by explaining what diabetes is — type 1 and type 2 — and then addresses medications, insulin, diet, and exercise for diabetics.

On the whole, I thought this was an excellent ebook for people who were just diagnosed, know someone who was just diagnosed, or just want to learn the basics about the disease.  It's not for someone who knows a lot about diabetes already, and I think there's actually some incorrect information.

A few things I had a problem with:

- The book tries to differentiate between type 1 and type 2 symptoms.  Realistically, high blood sugar is really the main symptom of both diseases (rather than the disease itself, since the body gets there two different ways).  Since both types of diabetes are usually found out because of high blood sugar, the symptoms are more or less the same.  For instance, the ebook lists blurry vision under the symptoms of type 2, when I can tell you for a fact that it happens with type 1 too.  The only symptoms that I think were accurately placed in only the type 2 category are numbness in the extremities (which tends to be caused by long term high blood sugars, and therefore usually isn't present when type 1, which comes on very quickly, is diagnosed) and heart disease (which is I believe a complication because of the combination of long term high blood sugars, and the weight problems usually present in type 2 diabetics).

- The book doesn't seem to know some of the facts about type 1 diabetes.  It claims type 2 is more of a genetic disease, which isn't true because autoimmune diseases are definitely genetic (and because we don't know whether it's type 2 diabetes, or the weight problems that lead to it, that are genetic).  It also claims that there is no way to tell for sure if you're going to get type 1, which also isn't true, because someone with the autoimmune disease will have certain antibodies in their bloodstream.  It also claims that 90 percent of type 1 diabetics became diabetic because of a fever as a trigger, an old theory that was debunked in Dan Hurley's book Diabetes Rising.

- The book sometimes seems rather outdated.  In addition to the fever-as-trigger theory and the apparent lack of knowledge about antibodies and the genetic nature of autoimmune diseases, the book is also shockingly outdated on other things.  For instance, it describes two types of test strips, one that changes color (which tells you your approximate blood sugar) and one that gives you a glucose reading.  Since I have not heard of anyone using the color strips in probably 20 years, I think this is glaring evidence that the book needs to be updated or probably just rewritten altogether, using the newest information.

- The author recommends a diet that is only 40 percent from carbs.  Most studies indicate that high-carb diets are much healthier for you, heart-wise and in other respects as well.  Since modern insulin can do such a good job of managing your sugars, a low-carb diet seems to be rather old-fashioned.  For instance, I eat a very high-carb diet, and my A1c is consistently around 7 (even lower in the last year, because I was doing a study and was on a new insulin, a replacement for Lantus, that is just starting the approval process with the FDA).  I also don't agree with him that low-carb diets make it easier to control blood sugar — I find that hours later, when protein and fats are finally converted into glucose, I end up with a spike in blood sugar if I've eaten a low-carb meal.

In other words, the book is a great intro into the subject, especially for the price, but I wouldn't let it be the final word on anything.