Patrick J. Skerrett

Implants, tattoos, and tears could measure blood sugar without pain

Today, the only reliable way to check blood sugar is by pricking a finger, squeezing out a drop of blood, and placing it on a small test strip attached to a meter. For some people, this means five to ten finger sticks a day. Researchers across the country are exploring pain-free ways to measure blood sugar. University of California, San Diego researchers have developed a titanium sensor the diameter of a quarter that would be implanted under the skin and wirelessly send blood sugar readings to an external monitor. At Northeastern University in Boston, researchers are working on a blood sugar “tattoo” by injecting glucose-detecting nanosensors under the skin. Arizona State University researchers are working to perfect a device that measures blood sugar using tears instead of blood.

Patrick J. Skerrett

Diabetic neuropathy—the agony of da feet

More than half of people who live with diabetes eventually develop diabetic neuropathy, or damage to nerves. It can range from merely aggravating to disabling or even life threatening. The first nerves to be affected tend to those in the toes and feet. Diabetic neuropathy can be felt as a tingling in the toes and feet, a constant burning feeling in the feet, sharp pain that may be worse at night, or extreme sensitivity to touch. In some people, it robs the feet of their ability to sense pain. So far, there isn’t a cure for diabetic neuropathy. Controlling blood sugar is the most important step to preventing or managing it. Controlling blood pressure, not smoking, and staying active also help. People with diabetes should have a doctor examine their feet at least once a year, and should check their feet every day or so.

Patrick J. Skerrett

Do chronic diseases have their origins in the womb?

Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, asthma, osteoporosis and other common chronic diseases are often blamed on genes, pollution, or the wear and tear caused by personal choices like a poor diet, smoking, or too little exercise. An intriguing hypothesis is that these and other conditions stem from a developing baby’s environment, mainly the womb and the placenta. During the first thousand days of development, from conception to age 2, the body’s tissues, organs, and systems are exquisitely sensitive to conditions in their environment during various windows of time. A lack of nutrients or an overabundance of them during these windows, so the thinking goes, programs a child’s development and sets the stage for health or disease.

Patrick J. Skerrett

Taking part in a clinical trial advances knowledge, medical care

More than 18,000 clinical trials are underway right now in the United States, covering nearly every aspect of health and disease. Harvard Heart Letter editor P.J. Skerrett describes his experience as a volunteer in a clinical trial called TINSAL-T2D at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.

Patrick J. Skerrett

Is fructose bad for you?

High-fructose corn syrup has been blamed for causing the paired epidemics of obesity and diabetes that have swept the U.S. and many other parts of the world. The real problem may be fructose, warned Dr. Robert H. Lustig, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, in a talk at Harvard School of Public Health. Fructose, sometimes called fruit sugar, is just as abundant in refined sugar as it is in high-fructose corn syrup. When the liver metabolizes fructose, it makes triglycerides (a form of fat) and can lead to insulin resistance, a precursor of diabetes. Although researchers haven’t completely connected all the dots between high intake of fructose from sugared soft drinks, juices, and sugar-sweetened foods and the onset of diseases like diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, the findings so far offer another reason to limit sugary beverages and foods.

Patrick J. Skerrett

Sugary soda and juice can boost blood pressure, weight

A large new study links drinking sugar-sweetened sodas and juices with higher blood pressure and extra pounds. The results are in line with earlier studies, and with some clinical trials, showing that daily consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages isn’t so good for the body.

Ann MacDonald

What to do when health problems or medical treatments thwart your love life

Health problems, or treatments for them, sometimes thwart sexual desire and sexual function. There may not be a quick fix for health-related sexual problems, but there are things you can do to enjoy your love life while taking care of the rest of your health.

Patrick J. Skerrett

A Chia Pet for diabetes?

Like swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano in the spring, Chia Pets begin appearing every December on late-night television and in the gift aisles of many stores. (Full disclaimer: I bought one for the Yankee Swap at Harvard Health Publication’s annual Christmas party.) Water these ceramic figures and they sprout a green “fur” from seeds […]

Patrick J. Skerrett
Peter Wehrwein

Avandia: Fishing with the wrong bait?

The news yesterday that FDA is putting tighter restrictions on Avandia (rosiglitazone), the diabetes drugs, was important but not surprising. In July, an advisory panel to the agency took a rather dim view of the drug.  Ten of the 32 votes were for increased warnings and tighter restrictions, and 12 were for pulling the drug off the market completely (which is what European regulators decided to […]