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It's a Type 2 Life
It's a Type 2 Life

San Francisco Bay Area resident Patrick Totty writes about his experiences living with type 2 diabetes

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Unwelcome Wonders Never Cease

I’ve mentioned before that I occasionally participate in drug trials for my endocrinologist. The arrangement is very enticing: I get regular checkups, including ECGs and blood tests. Sometimes the test sponsor pays for my regular diabetes medications (in my case a sulfonylurea and metformin). And there’s some cash at the end that covers the cost of a couple of very nice dinners out for my wife and me.

The drawbacks are minor. The worst I’ve had to put up with was walking around for 24 hours with a portable blood pressure testing device that inflated every 15 minutes. The purpose of that was to see if a Phase III diabetes drug I was taking had any beneficial effects on blood pressure. (If so, one more selling point for the manufacturer—blood sugar and blood pressure control!)

I just recently finished a study and learned yesterday that readings from my last blood test indicate that I might be anemic. What the heck? I’ve been a regular blood donor for several years now and have always been proud when the intake nurse lets a drop of my blood fall into a liquid that tests for iron content. The more iron it has, the more quickly it falls to the bottom of the clear glass tube. I enjoy hearing the nurse’s intake of breath as my bad-boy drop speeds for depth like a hungry seal dive bombing a snapper.

Apparently no more. I now have an iron deficiency. So, I have to do two things: find out what’s causing it and find a way to make it go away.

It turns out that diabetics are more prone to anemia than people who don’t have the disease. There are several reasons why, but I’ve managed to whittle down what may be going on in my case to two possibilities:

  • I’ve been taking an OTC form of Prilosec daily for several months, treatment for a violent dry cough that my doctor thinks is caused by excess stomach acid. The problem is that long-term use of the drug can interfere with red blood cell production.
  • Taking metformin for more than three years—I’ve been taking it for five—considerably increases the chances of lowered red blood cell counts.

I had no inkling that either drug had this possible side effect. In all of my rambling around the Internet and talking to various type 2s and diabetes experts, I simply hadn’t run into any connections between diabetes and anemia. Now that I’ve set my browser to look for such connections, there’s a host of them to be found.

I’ll report this to my doctor and we’ll probably both agree that I should drop the generic form of Prilosec and switch to another diabetes medication. Maybe I’ll start taking iron tabs. It will be interesting to see if that raises my red cell count. If so, I’ll be happy to have learned something new and to have dodged having to deal with yet another complication of type 2. If not, then there will probably be more serious causes at work.

Either way, I’ll check back in on this.

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Tags: Drugs

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About the Author

Bay Area resident Patrick Totty was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in July, 2003.

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