Diabetes Week : You Can Make a Difference by Andy Broomhead

It’s already well documented that living with diabetes can be a frustrating and challenging experience. I remember thinking when I was diagnosed with Type 1 in 2001 that it was so fundamentally life changing that I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to cope with it.

One of my first thoughts was of a boy who went to my primary school who had diabetes as that was probably my only exposure to someone who lived with the condition. I remembered that had carried a vial of insulin and a large hypodermic needle around with him all the time. That memory convinced me I was doomed, that I’d never be able to manage.

Being here 12 years later to write this blog isn’t a tribute to my own incredible ability to overcome the impossible, but a real testament to the power of research into treating diabetes and improving the lives of millions of people.

Recently I became involved in a clinical trial called REPOSE (or The Relative Effectiveness of Pumps over MDI and Structured Education for Type-1 diabetes). The aim of the study is to determine whether an insulin pump provides additional benefit to people with Type 1 diabetes versus Multiple Daily Injections. All participants, regardless of the treatment type they are assigned, also complete a DAFNE course to ensure that structured education is provided.

Whilst a recent report showed that the UK is lagging behind the rest of Europe and the US in terms of insulin pump usage in treating Type 1 diabetes, there have been no trials in adults that compare how well patient fare between MDI and pump therapy when combined with structured education. It’s important that research like this is carried out to be able to identify which people would most benefit from an alternative method of control, as well as refining the existing support mechanisms.

Of course you don’t have to have diabetes to take part in research. Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet is a study aimed at understanding more about how Type 1 diabetes occurs and is aimed specifically at relatives of people with diabetes.

The study is divided up into two part; screening and monitoring. Screening involves giving a blood sample which is checked for diabetes-related antibodies. If these are present then you are invited to take part in the monitoring phase of the study which includes further blood tests for antibodies, as well as HbA1c and fasting blood tests.

This kind of research is important because diabetes-related antibodies can be present in the blood years before Type 1 diabetes develops. By identifying and monitoring these, it may provide more evidence as to how and why some people develop Type 1 diabetes, and may ultimately lead to a cure.

People can be put off by getting involved in research because they think it could be time consuming, invasive, or that they just don’t believe they can help. My experience of REPOSE isn’t any of those things, and I’ve felt incredibly supported by everyone involved with the study – particularly my diabetes specialist team in Sheffield. I convinced my sister to take part in TrialNet and she was equally enthusiastic about how helpful everyone was, and it took no time at all to participate.

If you want to get involved, speak to your specialist team, or contact Diabetes UK who will be able to help point you in the right direction. Think about how far we’ve come in the last 25 years, from hypodermics to insulin pumps, then consider the possibilities for the next 25 years and understand that you could make a real difference to both your quality of life, and improve the treatment of diabetes for future generations.

You can read more about REPOSE and TrialNet by visiting their websites

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