Archive for the 'Health' category

The New York Times on celiac disease

Aug 16 2009 Published by under Health

Via my postdoc advisor (who has been suggesting enough good stuff lately that I should probably just turn the blog over to him), The New York Times has posted a very nice article on living with celiac disease, "The Expense of Eating with Celiac Disease."  A sample:

Celiac disease damages the lining of the small intestine, making it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients. Victims may suffer from mild to serious malnutrition and a host of health problems, including anemia, low bone density and infertility. Celiac affects one out of 100 people in the United States, but a majority of those don’t know they have the disease, said Dr. Joseph A. Murray, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota who has been studying the disease for two decades. The disease can be detected by a simple blood test, followed by an endoscopy to check for damage to the small intestine.

Seven years after receiving his diagnosis, Mr. Oram, who is married and has one daughter, is symptom-free, but the cost of staying that way is high. That’s because the treatment for celiac does not come in the form of a pill that will be reimbursed or subsidized by an insurer. The treatment is to avoid eating products containing gluten. And gluten-free versions of products like bread, pizza and crackers are nearly three times as expensive as regular products, according to a study conducted by the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.

The article contains quite a few money-saving tips for those trying to live gluten-free; it also hits upon most of the important facts I've learned about celiac since being diagnosed with it last year.  Anemia is an important thing to be tested for: I've recently been diagnosed with mild anemia (h/t The Wife, who also suffers) that almost certainly comes from the celiac, and is almost certainly responsible for both my low energy level over the past few years and my quite serious restless leg syndrome.  I'm now taking iron supplements to compensate, and things have improved significantly.

The article also does a very good job indirectly pointing out how health care reform is important for the diagnosis and treatment of celiac:

Unfortunately for celiac patients, the extra cost of a special diet is not reimbursed by health care plans. Nor do most policies pay for trips to a dietitian to receive nutritional guidance.

In Britain, by contrast, patients found to have celiac disease are prescribed gluten-free products. In Italy, sufferers are given a stipend to spend on gluten-free food.

Some doctors blame drug makers, in part, for the lack of awareness and the lack of support. “The drug makers have not been interested in celiac because, until very recently, there have been no medications to treat it,” said Dr. Peter Green, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. “And since drug makers are responsible for so much of the education that doctors receive, the medical community is largely unaware of the disease.”

In short, countries with national health care actually pay to help cover the costs of living with celiac, for which no drug treatment is available.  Perhaps more important, it suggests that the drug manufacturers have a strong influence in driving the way doctors treat, or don't treat, diseases such as celiac.  If your disease is not one the manufacturers are interested in, it is less likely that you'll be diagnosed and treated properly (though, I should emphasize, not through the fault of the doctors).  My own case is anecdotal evidence to this effect: I was the one, at The Wife's urging, to ask my doctor to test me for celiac.

In any case, the article is well-worth a read.

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"Depression" isn't just feeling bad

Jul 01 2009 Published by under Health

There's been a healthy amount of discussion on the science blogs over the past few days about clinical depression, spurred on in large part by questions from aspiring academics concerning the best way to address the impact of their illness on their job and, just as important, their advisor's perception of that job.  Dr. Isis seems to have started the current ball rolling with a question from a postdoc, PalMD posted another reader's experience as a grad student dealing with depression, and Mark Chu-Carroll updated an old post concerning his own struggles with depression.  (If you search through the comments on the original post, you can read one of my very first blog comments, long before I had a blog of my own.)

I feel I should throw my own personal experiences in here.  I've been on antidepressants myself since graduate school.  I make no secret of it to anyone anymore, though I haven't talked about it that much on the blog, except in one early post about the unjustified stigma that antidepressant drugs have. Continue Reading »

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Invasion of the gluten-lacers!

Jul 09 2008 Published by under Health

I never thought I'd be happy to be diagnosed with a disease.

I've teased my fiancée for some time for having a similar attitude. She has had chronic, misdiagnosed medical problems for quite a few years. Her frustration is palpable, and understandable, but I couldn't help but tease her gently that she often would seem genuinely delighted at the possibility of having a problem.

But a diagnosed disease can be treated, which is where the excitement comes from. I was recently diagnosed with celiac disease, and it was truly a relief.

Continue Reading »

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