Thursday, 29 July 2010

Pump Practice!!!!

Just a short post today....but sometimes less is more!!!!! ;o)

The picture is me "modelling" the 'Medtronic MiniMed Paradigm Veo' insulin pump. I am having a "play" with it over the weekend and will be getting my own on the 9TH AUGUST!!!!!!! 11 DAYS TO GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pretty much all I can say about it for now is "AAAAGGGHHHHHHH" because I AM SO EXCITED & HAPPY.  I was really quite nervous before my appointment today in terms of there being a hell of a lot to take in but I think that part of it is going to be on the start day when I get the full training.  Today was more just about putting an infusion set in and then I can have a play with all the menus and features on the pump over the weekend.  I was pretty nervous about doing the first set insert but I had one go at doing one without it being attached to the pump, while I was still at the hospital then I did it all, including filling the reservoir with saline and priming the tubing etc. without having been shown how to do it by the DSN, on my own when I got home so I'm pretty pleased with how easily I managed to do it all especially as the DSN hadn't shown me how to do those parts of it at the appointment.  The set insert was nothing to worry about, I hardly felt it go in and now as I'm sitting here typing away, I can't feel it at all.....

So far, I love it...I've got to spend the... weekend having a look at all the menus and features then my DSN is going to get my own pink one ordered for me on Monday!!!!!

Oh, and some more great news last HbA1c was 11.6 (in March) and today I found out it has come down to 8.8 so I'm really pleased and also pleasantly surprised as I had expected it to have come down but not by that much!!!! All the hard work and carb counting is certainly paying off!!!!

Obviously the hard work with the pump is really going to begin on the start day but I'm more than ready for it and can't wait to get started for real.....

Off to have a lie down now so I can recover from all the excitement....(God knows what I'm going to be like on 9th August)

P.S. I am of course going to have to give my new pink pump a name so if anyone has any suggestions please let me know.....  :o)

Monday, 26 July 2010

Diabetic Retinopathy - The Facts

Apologies in advance for the length of this post!!!!  Today's post is going to be totally factual rather than me just rambling on about what I've been up to and it will hopefully explain everything you need to know about Diabetic Retinopathy, including how it occurs, symptoms, the NHS National Screening Programme, how it affects the eye(s), the different stages of the disease, the treatment involved, how to help to prevent the disease and the outlook for people who have Retinopathy. 

I realise I have done part of a blog about this before but I really want to try and raise awareness of this particular complication of Diabetes as it's very close to my heart, so I'm sure you won't mind me repeating myself a bit!!! Oh, and by the way, I have to admit that a lot of the factual information is taken from various websites and not actually written 100% by me, as you will probably be able to tell.

Retinopathy is a general term used to describe various disorders of the retina. Retinopathy is caused by the tiny blood vessels next to the retina and is often a result of diabetes, hence the term 'diabetic retinopathy.'  

Diabetes can have a number of effects on our vision. The most common is on the retina. The walls of the blood vessels in our eyes can become weak and over time, the walls begin to bulge. This creates an 'eddy' in the blood flow which can eventually block. Blood and other fluids start to leak into the retina and hard deposits are left there. Because of the reduction in blood flow the body grows new blood vessels. However, these veins are fragile and tend to rupture suddenly leaking blood into the vitreous. This will lead to a sudden and dramatic loss of vision, however, this may clear over time.

Your eye has a lens and an aperture (opening) at the front known as the pupil, which adjust to bring objects into focus on the retina at the back of the eye. The retina is made up of a delicate tissue that is sensitive to light, rather like the film in a camera. It also contains a fine network of small blood vessels.

At the centre of the retina is the macula, which is a small area about the size of a pinhead. This is the most highly specialised part of the retina and is vital because it allows you to see fine detail for activities such as reading and writing and also to recognise colours. The other parts of the retina give you side vision (peripheral vision). Filling the space in front of the retina is a clear jelly-like substance called the vitreous gel.

In 2005 The Department of Health set up a national screening programme for diabetic retinopathy. If you are 11 years of age or over and you have diabetes, you should be offered annual screening.  The screening programme was introduced because, if diabetic retinopathy is detected early enough, it can be treated effectively using laser treatment.

During screening, eye drops are used to make your pupils large and photographs of your retina are taken. As the photographs are being taken, you will see flashes of bright light, but usually it is not uncomfortable.  The eye drops may cause your eyes to sting slightly and your vision may become blurred about 15 minutes after the procedure ends. The blurring can last between two and six hours, depending on what sort of eye drops were used.


Diabetic retinopathy does not usually cause any symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage. In some cases, the only noticeable symptom is a sudden and complete loss of vision. This is why regular screening is so important.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
•discoloured spots (known as floaters that ‘float’ in your field of vision
•blurred vision
•your vision becomes blocked by patches or streaks
•reduced night vision, and, most serious
•sudden vision loss

Duration of Diabetes

The biggest risk factor for diabetic retinopathy is the length of time that you have lived with diabetes.  For people with type 1 diabetes, 90% will have some degree of diabetic retinopathy after 10 years of having symptoms.  For people with type 2 diabetes who do not need to take insulin, 67% will have some degree of diabetic retinopathy after 10 years of symptoms.  For people with type 2 diabetes who need to take insulin, 79% will have some degree of diabetic retinopathy after 10 years of symptoms.

Blood Glucose Level
The higher the levels of glucose in your blood, the greater your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. People with high blood glucose levels are more likely to progress to advanced diabetic retinopathy.  Blood glucose levels are measured using a test known as the HbA1c test. HbA1c is a form of haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying chemical in red blood cells that has glucose attached to it.  Small changes in the levels of HbA1c can greatly affect the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. For example, people with an HbA1c level of 8% are 40% more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy than people with an HbA1c level of 7%.

High Blood Pressure
People with high blood pressure (hypertension) are likely to progress to advanced diabetic retinopathy.

If diabetic retinopathy is detected during screening, you will be given information about how far the condition has progressed. This will determine the type of treatment you will receive.

Background Retinopathy
This is the first stage of diabetic retinopathy, it begins initially by acute swelling in the walls of the blood vessels. Spots known as micro aneurysms form on the retina and appear on the wall as small red coloured dots. There are also small yellow patches, which may form. This is a result of exuding protein from the blood stream onto the retina. Other marks on the retina at this stage could potentially be a haemorrhage, which appears in a similar form. At this stage of retinopathy, it will not directly affect your vision, however, regular checks are advised to keep the condition well monitored.

Pre-proliferative Retinopathy
This is the second stage. By this stage, new blood vessels have started to form in the retina and there are multiple points of bleeding.

By this time, the macula (the most sensitive part of the retina) has been damaged.
Maculopathy, which leads to the sight threatening condition macula oedema, is when the blood vessels become more delicate and begin to leak. In the early stages, fluid from this can leak into the macula, which operates our immediate, straight-ahead vision, resulting in swelling and blurred vision. The macula is an extremely sensitive area of the retina and macula oedema is one of the most common causes of visual impairment that you can develop through diabetes.

During the maculopathy stage, the haemorrhage's, swellings and leakages of protein as seen in the background retinopathy stage all begin to affect the macula. Specifically, this affects our ability to see finer details, for example, fine print in books.

These leakages can be cured by laser eye treatment, but often, several years later, more is needed to ensure they are properly treated. The leaks are known as clinically significant macula oedema and it takes four to six weeks for the treatment to take any sort of effect. As the condition develops, if left untreated it could become very severe. Should severe maculopathy occur, it will be very difficult to treat.

Proliferative Retinopathy
This is the most advanced stage. Proliferative retinopathy begins by the blood vessels within the retina becoming blocked. As a result of the insufficient blood flow to the retina, new, abnormally sized blood vessels begin to grow. Because these new blood vessels are very delicate and fragile, as they grow they are easily broken and can leak or bleed. The vessels are so easily broken that even sudden head movements such as sneezing, or rapid eye movement during sleep can cause them to break. They leak into the vitreous, causing a vitreous haemorrhage. The vitreous is a jelly like substance, which fills the centre of the eye to support its structure and give it its shape. As these vessels grow, they stimulate the growth of further abnormal tissue and as they break, they will eventually cause scar tissue to form. As a result of this, eventually the retina will detach itself altogether from the back of the eye.


Laser Treatment
The type of laser treatment used to treat diabetic retinopathy is known as photocoagulation. Photocoagulation involves using a laser to burn away any abnormal blood vessels.
A course of photocoagulation involves one or more visits to a laser treatment clinic. Treatment is normally available on an out-patient basis. It is not usually painful, but you may feel an occasional sharp pricking sensation when certain areas of your retina are being treated.

Drops are put into your eyes to numb the surface but you may still find the procedure slightly uncomfortable.  A special contact lens is then placed on your eye to hold your lids open and to focus the laser beam on your retina. 

As time goes on and more laser sessions are needed, the treatment can become extremely painful. There is no entirely effective way of reducing all the pain, except a general anaesthetic.

Local anaesthetic injections in the operating theatre, or tablets that aid relaxation, may help a little. Sometimes the local anaesthetic injection takes away all the pain, sometimes it just reduces the pain slightly. The injection is not into the eye, but under it, at one side.  This type of anesthesia may be used when an extensive amount of laser is required, the patient has difficulty keeping the eye still, or the patient is very sensitive.

For patients where the treatment is extremely painful larger departments offer general anaesthetics, as these also have the advantage of allowing laser treatment to both eyes. To do this the department must have a laser that can be used in an operating theatre.

Your vision will be blurred after treatment, but this should return to normal after a few hours. If you have a lot of treatment on your eyes, it can cause them to ache. Over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers, such as paracetamol, should help ease the pain.

A 30 year old person with a lot of new vessels may need 6000 laser burns per eye, or even more, to prevent the new vessels growing. Other people usually need less. In patients with very severe disease so much laser may be required that the side vision becomes poor and driving unsafe: the aim of the treatment is to keep good central sight, that is sight looking straight ahead, which is need to read, work, and watch television.

Sometimes, photocoagulation can damage the outer retina. If this occurs, there is a chance that your night and peripheral vision (your ability to see to objects that are outside your direct gaze) may be affected.  More than 50% of people who have laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy notice some difficulty with their night vision, and 3% notice some loss of peripheral vision.

Vitreous Surgery
This is often required if:

•a large amount of blood has collected in the centre of the eye, obscuring your vision, or
•there is extensive scar tissue which is likely to cause, or has already caused, retinal detachment

The surgeon will make a small incision in your eye before removing the vitreous gel that sits in front of the retina. The vitreous gel is where the blood gathers.
Any scar tissue will be removed from your retina and, in some cases, the retina may be strengthened in position using tiny clamps. The vitreous gel will be replaced with a gas or liquid to help hold the retina in place. The gas or liquid will gradually be absorbed by your body, which will create new gel to replace the gel that was removed during surgery.

Vitreous surgery is usually performed under local anaesthetic and sedation. This means that you will feel no pain and have little or no awareness of the surgery being performed.  You should be able to go home on the same day or the day after your surgery.

For the first few days after surgery, you may be asked to wear an eye patch so that you can gradually make more and more use of your eye. This is because activities such as reading and watching television can quickly tire your eye.

Following vitreous surgery, it is normal to have blurred vision for several weeks. This should begin to improve gradually, though it may take several months before your vision returns to normal.

To prevent or slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy, it is very important to keep your blood sugar level as close to normal as possible. 

Having high blood pressure (hypertension) can make the blood vessels in your eyes more vulnerable to damage, increasing your risk of developing advanced diabetic retinopathy.  The most effective way of preventing high blood pressure is to eat a healthy, balanced diet, including plenty of fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day), and to take regular exercise (at least 30 minutes five times a week).

If diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed and treated at an early stage, the outlook for the condition is good. Research has found that treatment can prevent severe vision loss in 90% of cases of diabetic retinopathy. 

I hope (if you are still awake after reading all of that) that the post has answered a few questions about what Retinopathy is and what is involved in the treatment available. 

Some useful websites are:

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Riding the Roller Coaster

I think a good way to describe Diabetes is that it is like a roller coaster....there are ups and downs and lots of unexpected twists and turns along the way.  These ups and downs and twists and turns can come in the form of the highs and lows of blood sugars and the sometimes unexpected diagnosis of a long term complication or maybe a request for a pump being turned down but they can also be related to the emotional side of living with Diabetes.

For me, an example of the emotions you can go through would be the last couple of days during which I have felt angry, hateful, tired, upset, tearful, self-pitying, irrational, like giving up, frustrated, powerless, pathetic, like a failure, guilty, energetic, motivated, happy, proud, relieved and disappointed....and that's just in the space of about 36 hours so imagine the range of emotions people with Diabetes go through from the date of diagnosis and then for the rest of your life.....that's a lot of ups and downs!!!

Yesterday was a bad day for me Diabetes-wise in terms of just wanting to ignore it and pretend it wasn't happening to me.  During the day I felt anger and hatred towards this life long condition that has decided to inflict itself upon me and my family.  I wanted it to go away and leave us all alone, even if it was just for a little while!!!  Like I said yesterday, you sometimes feel like you want to ask Diabetes "why me?" and that was where the self-pitying came in.  By the end of the day I felt like a total and utter failure and completely pathetic for not having the willpower to leave the chocolate alone and just do what I needed to do (i.e. count carbs, test sugars etc.).

Then as this morning came I felt guilty, like a fraud and like I had let everyone down.  These feelings are because I have been extremely lucky in being given the chance to have an insulin pump and that means total commitment to it and to your Diabetes.....yesterday was not a good way to show my commitment or gratitude!!! My sugars first thing were 16.7 so I made the decision (a monumental one for a person such as me who can't stand exercise) to not get down about it and to do something positive so I dusted off one of my old dance workout dvd's and tried to reduce my sugar levels that way.  It has been a looooong time since I did any exercise so afterwards I felt really good that I had done it and actually enjoyed it too.  It's only a small step but every little helps, as they say. 

Before lunch my sugar was down to 6.5 so the exercise had had a really positive effect on both my sugars and my mood (this was where the feelings of relief came in - I had totally changed my attitude from yesterday and done something good to improve my sugars - and it had worked).  Then after lunch I suddenly felt hypo.....sugars down to 3.1.....aside from the shakiness, sweating, intense hunger and feeling weak there was the familiar feeling of disappointment!!!!! I thought I was doing so well in my attempt to be a "good Diabetic" today and then it all went wrong.

My sugars are currently 11.0 which isn't too bad (for me anyway) especially after treating a hypo earlier on.  I'm back to feeling fairly positive and trying to focus on the fact that I'm getting my trial pumps next week so it's all becoming very real very quickly.....and of course, with that comes a whole new set of emotions.....

There really is no getting off this roller coaster that is Type 1 Diabetes!!!

P.S. Huge thank you to Gareth for putting up with all of these emotions and for riding the roller coaster with me!!! x x x

Friday, 23 July 2010

Damn You Diabetes!!!

I think the title of the post kind of says it all.....

Today I hate Diabetes.....
Today I have ignored Diabetes....
Today I pretended I was a non-Diabetic....

Today has been an "I can't be arsed with Diabetes" day.  I used to spend my entire life having days like this where I ignored Diabetes completely but lately those kind of days have been non-existent.....until today!!!

I basically spent the day not counting carbs, eating absolute rubbish and not testing my sugars and now I feel like crap......Yes, it's all my own fault and yes, I've been a terrible Diabetic today but I have to say I enjoyed every minute of it and every piece of chocolate tasted great.......sometimes it feels good to stick 2 fingers up to this vile disease called Diabetes!!!!

As all of you with the dreaded D will know, there are times when you don't just dislike Diabetes but you HATE it and want to scream and shout "why me?" and if it was a physical thing you could grab hold of you would give it a good kicking and maybe a few punches too!!! (I'm not normally a violent person, honest.....but Diabetes really does bring out the worst in me sometimes!!)

There are times when you don't want to have to count how many carbs are in every single thing you eat, you don't want to weigh your food, you don't want to have to do the maths to calculate your insulin doses, you don't want to prick your finger and squeeze a drop of blood out of it every few hours, you don't give a s**t what your blood sugar level is and you just don't want to have Diabetes taking up any space in your head!!!! 

But then you's not going to go away no matter how much you try and ignore it, it will still be there tomorrow, and the next day and the day after that.......

Oh well, tomorrow's another day and I can try and get back to being a "good diabetic" again.......

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Bits and Pieces......

Had a nice long break from Diabetes blogging and now it's about time I got back into it so here goes......

Not much to report really at the moment......had a great holiday in Turkey.  We spent the entire 2 weeks doing virtually nothing which I'm sure sounds incredibly boring but it was exactly what we needed and we have come home fully rested, nicely tanned and a fair few pounds heavier....the all-inclusive constant eating regime was too good to resist I'm afraid.  I would certainly recommend Turkey if you want fantastic weather, gorgeous scenery and friendly people and we really want to go back at some point. 

On the Diabetes front the holiday went smoothly apart from the odd low which was easy to deal with with an extra ice cream or two and a couple of extreme highs, one of which was entirely my fault as on our last night I somehow managed to forget to inject with my evening meal....DOH!!!! At least I knew the reason for it though so I corrected and made sure I kept myself hydrated and everything was fine.

Before I went away on holiday I read about the JDRF's request for people to contact their local MP's to ask them to sign up to Early Day Motion (EDM) 122 regarding Type 1 Diabetes research, which Adrian Sanders MP had put down for the JDRF.  Early Day Motions provide a formal mechanism for MPs to raise issues in the House of Commons.  '

The full text of Early Day Motion 122 is below:

"That this House supports the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) in its campaign to increase awareness and understanding about type 1 diabetes; notes that type 1 and type 2 diabetes are very separate and distinct conditions; acknowledges that type 1 diabetes is a chronic, life-threatening auto immune condition and is not caused by eating sugary food, by being overweight or by lifestyle choices; further notes with concern that type 1 is a leading cause of kidney failure, adult blindness, stroke, heart attacks and nerve damage and that incidence of the condition is increasing by four per cent. year on year; further notes that approximately five per cent. of the entire NHS budget is spent on treating type 1 diabetes; recognises that JDRF is the world's leading charitable funder of type 1 diabetes research and the only organisation dedicated solely to finding the cure for type 1; and believes that more funding for medical research will lead to the development of better treatments for type 1 diabetes, resulting in fewer complications and hospitalisations, improve cost efficiencies for the NHS budget and lead to a cure."

I contacted my local MP for Wolverhampton North East, Emma Reynolds, by e-mail and have now had a letter back from her saying that she has signed up to the EDM, which I am really pleased about.  At the time she replied a total of 36 MP's had signed up to it.  If you would like to contact your local MP to ask them to sign up click on the JDRF website link below where you can find out more.

At my last appointment my DSN gave me one of the new Bayer Contour USB blood glucose meters to try, on condition that I do a review of it for her.  I've been looking at the Contour USB for a while so to get one given to me for free was great.  I have only started to use it this week so I haven't got much to say on it yet in terms of using the Glucofacts Software which allows you to view your meter readings and can produce a variety of reports but in terms of the look of it and how easy it is to use then I only have positive things to say.  It looks really modern and funky and comes with multi coloured lancets which I quite like (Yes, I am very easily pleased I know!!!).  When setting it up you can put in what your target results range is for before a meal and also for after a meal.  Once you have put the drop of blood onto the test strip it asks you whether the test is before or after a meal and then when analysing the results it will tell you how many of your results have been on target or above or below the range you have set depending on whether the test was done before or after a meal.  You can also add notes which you could use, for example, if you are ill and have a high result, you can add a note to the result so you have an explanation for it.  You can also set reminders for when you want to do your next test.  Once I have made use of the software and looked at the reports and graphs that can be produced I will do a proper review of it.

As I think I've mentioned before I have signed up to be a distributing volunteer for Diabetes UK and have just received my first box of materials.  There are a few posters and a variety of leaflets.  I can take some into work and will take some into my GP's and to the Eye Infirmary and Stafford Hospital next week.  I will leave some at my local library also but I'm not sure where else to go with them if I'm honest.  So if anyone has any ideas please let me know.....Thanks!!

Also before I went on holiday I e-mailed Diabetes UK about posting a link to my blog on their website.  When I got home I still hadn't had a reply so I contacted them on their Facebook page and was told that they thought they had replied to me.....they hadn't so I sent my email again.  The next day I had a response.......they aren't interested at this time as they already have someone blogging for them who is around my age and uses a pump.  Bit disappointed if I'm totally honest but they have however, suggested that I can be a "guest blogger" at some point so watch this space......

Through an old school friend of mine I have got in contact with a girl in Canada who has been on a pump for 6 years.  This is great as she has been able to tell me all about it and has re-iterated what I keep on hearing about how much the pump has changed her life. 

Whilst I was on holiday I was contacted by a guy in America called John who had read my blog and liked the way I write so wanted my help with creating a new Facebook group called 'Diabetics with Neuropathy'.  I'm not too sure at the moment exactly how I will be able to contribute as I do not have neuropathy myself but the group is now set up and with the help of Lee (Nevitt) I hope we can raise awareness of the condition and get the facts out there about this painful and debilitating complication of Diabetes. 

I love making contact with new people who have Diabetes or have children with Diabetes as it means that this Diabetic Online Community of ours is just growing and growing and that can only be a good thing!!!

FINALLY I have some ketone test strips........after my unsuccessful trip to the GP's when the doctor had never even heard of ketones never mind strips that test for them, I got in touch with my wonderful DSN (Heidi) at the GP surgery and she got it all sorted out for me and put them onto my repeat prescription.

I've recently bought a couple of new Diabetes related books which I want to get started with really soon.  One is called 'Pumping Insulin' by John Walsh and Ruth Roberts and the other is called '50 Diabetes Myths That Can Ruin Your Life and 50 Diabetes Truths That Can Save It' by Riva Greenberg. 

The first one was recommended to me by a friend who has a pump and is apparently everything you need to know for success on an insulin pump.  I have made a start reading it and so far it seems to be really informative and quite easy to follow.  I think this one is going to be my "bible" over the next few months.  I will do a proper review of it once I have read it all and maybe I can recommend it to other people who are soon to start with a pump.

I read an article on a website by the author of the second book and decided to buy her book.  I haven't started it yet but I think it will be an interesting read.  As I have said before, I'm currently trying to re-educate myself on all things Diabetes and learn about things to do with the disease that I have always ignored in the past so I think this book will be a good way of helping me to do that.  Again, once I have read it I will do a quick review and let you know whether it's worth a look or not.....

A week today I will be going to the Eye Infirmary for more laser surgery on my right eye for my Retinopathy.  Not looking forward to it one bit (obviously) but it's got to be done!!! I'm sure I will be able to get through it by thinking about my appointment the day after at Stafford Hospital with Gill, my DSN, to get 2 infusion sets put in so I can take 2 pumps home filled with saline to try them out and make my final decision on which one I want to have (I'm still thinking it's going to be the Medtronic - in pink of course - but I'll have to wait and see how I get on)'s sooooo exciting and I can't wait!!!!!

Anyway, I think that's all the Diabetes related bits and pieces that have been going on recently.......thanks for reading!!!   :o)

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