7 posts from August, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Diabetes and stress

Posted August 27th, 2015 by

Just about two years ago, nearly 600 members of the PatientsLikeMe community completed a survey called the Diabetes Distress Scale (DDS), a 17-item questionnaire which measures the amount and types of problems diabetes can cause in a person’s life. And today, we’re throwing it back to the summary of the results. Here’s what Dr. William Polonsky, the Founder and President of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute, and the co-creator of the DDS, had to say at the time about diabetes and stress:

“I believe it’s important to understand the physical, behavioral and emotional sides of illness. Diabetes, in particular, is so highly dependent on what people do every day.  It is, therefore, almost all about behavior− how do you talk yourself into taking on new tasks and making changes in your lifestyle, some of them which may seem not so pleasant or worthwhile, that you’d rather not do.”

You might recognize Dr. Polonsky from his subsequent blog podcast and additional research with the WHYSTOP scale. You can view the results of the DDS as a PDF, but check out some of the graphs below.

 

Have you had an A1C test done in the past year?

If you’re living with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, find others just like you in the growing communities on PatientsLikeMe. Almost 20,000 people with type 1 or type 2 are sharing their experiences to help others, for good.

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“I can see that there actually is help here.” – JustinSingleton shares his experiences with PTS

Posted August 21st, 2015 by

JustinSingleton is an Army veteran who recently joined PatientsLikeMe back in June, and he’s been exploring the veteran’s community ever since. This month, he wrote about his experiences in an interview, and below, you can read what he had to say about getting diagnosed with PTS, managing his triggers and the importance of connecting and sharing with fellow service members. 

Can you give us a little background about your experience in the military?

In 1998, I joined the Ohio Army National Guard as an Indirect Fire Infantryman – the guy that shoots the mortars out of a big tube. For six years I trained on a mortar gun, but after being called back into the Army (I left in 2004), I was assigned to an Infantry Reconnaissance platoon, and I had no idea what I was doing. Before heading to Iraq, we trained together as a platoon for six months – learning not only the trade, but to trust each other with our lives.

It wasn’t until March 2006 that we arrived in Iraq, and I was assigned to the Anbar Province, which at the time was rated as the worst province of the nation. I was deployed in the time leading up to the need for “the surge.” As we drove the highways of the Anbar, we were shot at, mortared, and bombed. Intelligence even found “wanted” posters of one of our vehicles (we named it Chuck Norris).

When were you diagnosed with PTS?

I wasn’t diagnosed with PTS until many years after the war (I tried to “fix” myself), but the traumatic events are actually multiple, including receiving indirect fire on what was supposed to be my last mission – just a week or so after two good friends were evacuated after being maimed for life.

What have you done to manage your symptoms of PTS?

At the beginning, I refused medicines – I thought I was strong enough to beat it on my own. I worked with a VA counselor before moving for a semester. While there, I worked with a university student/counselor, but nothing was really helping. Finally, I went to my Primary Care Physician and told her that I needed more. The VA psychiatrist tested some medicines, but one needed to be changed (this is normal). Finally, the combination of medicine and individual therapy created within me a sense of “I might make it.”

You joined PatientsLikeMe in June 2015.  As a newer member, what do you think of the veteran’s and PTS communities?

I joined this community because although I feel better than before, I still need the help of others. I can see that there actually is help here.

You’ve mentioned in the forum that your triggers seem to be non-combat related – can you describe your triggers?

In one of the forums I mentioned my triggers. These, to me, are odd. Bridges, garbage on the side of the road, and even a midnight stroll have triggered panic attacks or anxiety. Often, simply being in a grocery store too long causes anxiety to the point that I take a quarter of Ativan, squeeze my fists or the cart, and head to the door or checkout (whether finished or not). While this has caused an impairment in life, it has never been “the end” of life. These are objects on my road to a healthy living – objectives to be conquered.

Although there is a prevalent idea in the Armed Forces that a man/woman should never ask for help or ever see a physician, I have found that to be a rather juvenile view on life. The greatest thing a veteran facing PTS or anxiety can do is not try to face it alone. We are a community, a brotherhood, and only together with a good doctor can we ever hope to survive.

What advice do you have for other military members who may be experiencing PTS and related conditions?

Twenty-three of our brothers and sisters quit every day. I refuse to be a part of that statistic.

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Q & A with Mary Ann Singersen, Co-Founder/President of the A.L.S. Family Charitable Foundation

Posted August 14th, 2015 by

In 1998, Stephen Heywood, the brother of our co-founders Ben and Jamie, and friend of Jeff Cole, was diagnosed with ALS. They immediately went to work trying to find new ways to slow Stephen’s progression, and after 6 years of trial and error, they built PatientsLikeMe in 2004.

Mary Ann Singersen also has family experience with the neurological condition. Her father, Edward, was diagnosed two years before Stephen, and she co-founded the A.L.S. Family Charitable Foundation, now a partner of ours here at PatientsLikeMe. Mary Ann recently sat down for a blog interview and spoke about her inspiration to start the organization, her philosophy about ALS and what advice she would have for anyone living, or caring for someone, with ALS.

Can you share with our followers how your own family’s experience with ALS inspired you to start the A.L.S. Family Charitable Foundation? 

My father, Edward Sciaba Sr., was diagnosed with ALS in 1995. Going through this ordeal really opened my eyes to the plight of not only the patients but their families as well. In 1998 he lost his battle with ALS.

Our Co-Founder Donna Jordan also lost her brother Cliff Jordan Jr. to ALS the same year. (Our “Cliff Walk” is named for him).

We met through volunteering in the ALS community and thought that since we already had the Walk in Cliff’s name, we would like to be sure that the funds raised were used to help patients with their financial and emotional needs. We also wanted to further research efforts so we donate a portion to ALSTDI and UMASS Memorial Medical.

Donna and I went on to co-found the A.L.S. Family Charitable Foundation and we pride ourselves on our ability to put patients and their needs first. We offer many in-house programs that help with family vacations, day trips, respite, utility bills, back to school and holiday shopping, college scholarships for children of patients, etc. At this time, our programs are restricted in that they are available to New England area residents only.

We know you have your biggest event of the year – The 19th Annual “Cliff Walk” For A.L.S. – coming up on September 13. Can you share some more information about the event and its history? How can people get involved?

My co-founder and friend Donna Jordan’s brother Cliff was diagnosed with ALS at 34 years of age and he wanted to do something to support research efforts, so he held a walk on the Cape Cod Canal and 60 people came and raised $4,000.

Every year since then, the Walk has grown and grown. Last year, we welcomed 1,500 participants and raised over $220,000.

The “Cliff Walk®” is a seven mile walk along the Cape Cod Canal followed by live musical entertainment, fun activities for the whole family and lots of great food! If folks wish to come to the Walk we ask them to download a pledge sheet or make an online fundraising page.

On your website you say, “Until there is a cure…there is the A.L.S. Family Charitable Foundation.” Where do you and the organization see research focused in the future? What’s the next step? 

I can only say that I hope with all the funds raised by ALS organizations around the world and with the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge, there just has to be a cure on the way. In the meantime, we are here to help in any way we can.

We’re thrilled to be a partner of the A.L.S. Family Charitable Foundation. How do you think those living with ALS can benefit from PatientsLikeMe? How can PatientsLikeMe ALS members benefit from the A.L.S. Family Charitable Foundation? 

PatientsLikeMe is a great resource for anyone living with any condition – not just ALS. It’s also great for caregivers. ALS patients more than any other condition are online researching their symptoms, what helps, what doesn’t. They and their collaboration with each other may hold the key to better treatment options and someday maybe a cure.

Our Foundation prides itself on putting patients and their needs first. Our services are open to New England area residents and include granting funds to help with equipment, bills, respite services, college scholarships to children of patients, vacations, day trips, back to school and holiday expenses and any other needs we are able to meet. So please if you or a loved one have ALS and live in New England contact us for assistance. Call Debbie Bell our Patient Services Coordinator at 781-217-5480, email her at debbellals@aol.com or call our office at 508-759-9696 or email alsfamily@aol.com.

We also wish to find a cure for our loved ones living with ALS, so we fund research efforts at ALS TDI and UMASS Memorial Medical Center.

From your own personal experiences, what advice would you give to someone living with ALS, and to his or her family members and friends? 

Take help anywhere you can get it. Don’t ever feel like you shouldn’t ask because someone who needs it more will be denied, or because you have received help from another organization. Funds we and other organizations raise are for you and people like you.

If you or a loved one has ALS and live in the New England area, visit the A.L.S. Family Charitable Foundation website for more information and to request assistance.”

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Food for thought: August (diet) edition

Posted August 12th, 2015 by

Many mothers have told their children “you are what you eat,” but some PatientsLikeMe members have taken that idea one step further and are using their diets to try and manage the symptoms of their conditions. People have been sharing about everything from gluten-free to vegan diets – check out what some people said in the conversations below:

“I truly believe, after 50+ years of fibromyalgia symptoms ranging from pain and depression to migraines, irritable bowel, and low thyroid, that the biggest help of all is to watch my diet, get in lots of fruits and vegetables, and limit sugar and alcohol. I supplement my fruits and veg intake with a whole food based supplement. This has allowed me to reduce medication to thyroid supplementation and a very occasional sumatriptan.”
-Fibromyalgia member on her “detox” diet

“My diet is greens, beans, nuts and seeds. Favorites are kale, spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potatoes, black, pinto and kidney beans, lentils, black-eyed peas, cashews, almonds, peanuts and pistachios, flax and pumpkin seeds. I also have occasional sweet potatoes, apples, oranges and watermelon. Grains are consumed about once a week and are usually Farro or Quinoa.”
-Diabetes II member on his vegan diet

“With all my meds and other things I take for depression and the DBS, I can’t say that a gluten-free diet has been particularly whiz-bang helpful. However, I think it may have slowed my symptoms or made me feel better than I should.”

“I am also trying to stay as gluten-free and sugar-free as possible. It is a daunting exercise each day, but may be worth it long-term. I believe that diet plays a huge role in all disease states. All we can do each day, realistically, is take one day at a time and note any positive changes in our PD symptoms to gauge how we are benefitting.”
-Parkinson’s members on their gluten-free diets

If you missed our other Food for Thought posts, read the previous editions here.

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Caregivers and companions – PatientsLikeMe members talk about their service animals

Posted August 10th, 2015 by

Service animals are often a topic of conversation in the PatientsLikeMe community, and many members frequently share their experiences with their furry friends. For example, Ted wrote about his service dog Catti-Brie in his blog interview.

Here’s what other members are sharing about their animals:

“Just last night when I was having a rough dream [my dog] stood with his paws front paws on the bed and barked till I picked him up and he laid across me and snuggled me to sleep again.”

“I have a mobility service dog that helps with my balance. It’s like having a smart cane. When we go for walks she wears her mobility harness, but when we are home she only wears it when I’m having a bad day. She is also trained to do many other things like get items for me, and pick up things I dropped. She can also turn on/off the lights and open/close doors.”

“Mali is my mobility and medical alert service dog. She has saved my life twice so far… as well as told two of my friends when they had tumors. She went through a spell when she was younger when she thought she had to tell everyone who was ill where their boo boos were.”

Previously, members shared their experiences with service animals in a Canine Caretakers blog post, and others contributed to forum posts on the same topic. If you would like to share about your service animal, head to PatientsLikeMe. Don’t forget to share a cute picture of your pooch (or other animal)!

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Throwback Thursday: Dr. Steve Feldman speaks about psoriasis and medication adherence

Posted August 6th, 2015 by

In honor of Psoriasis Awareness Month, we’re throwing it back to January 2013, when we sat down with Steve Feldman, MD, PhD, and Professor of Dermatology, Pathology & Public Health Sciences at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. In his interview, he spoke about the challenges for psoriasis patients, as well as the treatment advances that may be ahead. We’ve reposted his entire interview below so you can learn about his research studies on patients’ adherence to topical treatments.

As the founder of DrScore.com, tell us how rating doctors online can improve medical care.

Doctors want to give their patients great medical care. Online ratings can help by giving doctors the feedback they need to know—from patients’ perspectives—such as what the doctor is doing well and what the doctor can do to enhance the quality of care in their practice. www.DrScore.com was designed to help facilitate that feedback while also giving patients a better picture—more transparency—of the quality of care physicians provide, something that wasn’t nearly so easy to do in the pre-Internet era.

What do you think about PatientsLikeMe’s data-sharing platform and openness philosophy?

PatientsLikeMe does a truly wonderful job taking advantage of the capabilities of the Internet to permit data sharing among patients so they can learn from one another. Another extraordinary accomplishment has been to develop ways to combine that data in order to better understand diseases and the benefits and risks of the treatments for those diseases. Openness is a terrific attribute in this Internet age. I am very optimistic about medicine and health care providers and think there’s nothing to hide (and if there were something to hide, it ought to be exposed)!

You’ve done extensive research around treatment adherence. What are the considerations for patients?

Well, as the former Surgeon General put it, medicines don’t work if patients don’t take them. Taking medicine isn’t easy, unless it is a habit. And when a patient starts to use a new medicine, taking it isn’t a habit. Patients forget their medicine, they may be fearful of their medicine, there are just all sorts of reasons why patients don’t always take their medications. I think coming up with a plan, a system, for remembering is helpful. (I keep my own pills in a seven-day dispenser on the dinner table, which works great for me except when my family goes out to eat).

If patients are fearful, they should have an honest discussion with the doctor about it. One thing is certain: patients should be honest with their doctors about how they use their medicines. It does neither the patient nor the doctor any good for the patient to tell the doctor one thing but do something else. If a doctor does prescribe a medicine that the patient thinks is too costly or too risky, the patient should let their doctor know. The doctor wants to know and may be able to change things.

We have a growing psoriasis community. What challenges do psoriasis patients face?

Psoriasis has a huge impact on patients’ lives. It affects how patients perceive themselves, how other people perceive the person who has psoriasis, and, in many cases, how someone with psoriasis thinks they are perceived by others. The lesions aren’t just unsightly; they can be itchy and painful. The condition is caused by an overactive immune system, which can also result in arthritis and increased risk of cardiovascular disease and depression. There are good treatments, but the treatments have their downsides: they may be costly, inconvenient, messy, and risky. One of the biggest challenges is getting educated about all the potential options. It isn’t easy.

In our forum, patients have been discussing whether diet can affect psoriasis. What’s your take?

Well, I don’t know of any particular dietary issues that have been definitively shown to affect psoriasis one way or the other (except perhaps that starvation temporarily improves the disease, probably by inhibiting the immune system). But if a particular patient finds some particular dietary issue that makes their psoriasis worse (or better), they should eat accordingly. Some patients tell me beer and/or wine makes their disease worse or that avoiding gluten has helped. The PatientsLikeMe platform may be helpful in compiling the experiences of many people to see if these are issues for individuals or could truly help patients in general.

Any thoughts on what’s ahead in terms of psoriasis management and treatment advances?

As our understanding of the immune system improves, scientists at drug companies will be developing newer and perhaps better ways of controlling immune diseases, including psoriasis. As our health care system changes to become more cost conscious, there may be greater reliance on low cost treatments, like generic creams and ointments for people with mild disease and more use of phototherapy for people with more severe involvement. And with better data collection—like with PatientsLikeMe—we may develop a better understanding of what works, what doesn’t work, and what risks and benefits our treatments have.

If you’re living with psoriasis, don’t forget to connect with the more than 5,000 members of the psoriasis community at PatientsLikeMe.

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ORE Researcher Series: Dr. Larry Alphs Talks PROs and Depression

Posted August 1st, 2015 by

Dr. Larry Alphs, the Therapeutic Area Leader in Psychiatry for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, shared about his research as part of PatientsLikeMe’s ORE Researcher Series. You’ve already listened to Dr. Tamara Kear and the McMaster University researchers – click below to watch Dr. Alphs speak about a new drug that could eventually treat suicidal thoughts.

 

 

What exactly is the ORE? PatientsLikeMe’s ORE platform gives patients the chance to not only check an answer box, but also share their feedback on each question in a researcher’s health measure. They can tell our research partners what makes sense, what doesn’t, and how relevant the overall tool is to their condition. It’s all about collaborating with patients as partners to create the most effective tools for measuring disease.

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