We are now in the era of preventative medicine. Susan G. Komen’s recent reversal of their funding to Planned Parenthood was mainly due to the protest by people because their funding helps provide mammograms to detect breast cancer in women who can’t afford them. Thousands of free flu shots are provided in low income areas. Recently the Centers for Disease Control released new recommendations for 2012 that include Hepatitis B vaccine recommended for diabetics.
Diabetics have a lot on their plate, figuratively speaking of course. Not only is it their responsibility to monitor their blood sugar, food intake, exercise and medication usage, but they also have to make sure they have yearly dilated eye exams, do daily foot exams, and twice a year dental exams and cleanings. Complications of diabetes include effects on the eyes like blurred vision and possible blindness, gum disease, and nerve pain that results in lack of sensation in the extremities like the feet. That’s why all these screenings are so important to diabetes care. With having weakened immune systems diabetics are encouraged to get flu and pneumonia vaccines. Added to this conversation now is the Hepatitis B Vaccine.
Hepatitis B is a virus that has affects on the liver. It is contracted through blood and bodily fluids. Examples of ways people can come in contact with the virus include sex without the use of protection like a condom, unsanitary piercing or tattooing tools, sharing razors or toothbrushes, and sharing needles whether they are being used for recreational drugs or for medication. This is where diabetics are at risk, not only for the pen needles and syringes used for injecting insulin, or their Byetta or Victoza, but also for the lancets they use to obtain blood for their glucometer readings.
Symptoms of Hepatitis B include flu-like symptoms like fatigue, headache, lack of appetite, and muscle aches. Jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin and eyes, usually shows up after the flu-like symptoms go away and indicate that the liver is being affected. Hepatitis B vaccine is also recommended for health care workers like myself, drug users, and people undergoing dialysis.
The vaccine requires a series of three shots and is usually given along with the infant immunization schedule. After the first shot, the second is given at least a month after and the third is six months after the first dose. It is administered into the muscle of the upper arm or upper thigh of children. Usually some muscle soreness and some redness or swelling is possible. I recommend that diabetics not reuse or share any syringes, pen needles, or lancets. Not only does reissuing blunt the needles and make it make painful to use, but there is risk of skin infections.
In New York State we have a program called ESAP, or the Expanded Syringe Access Program, where you can buy a small amount of syringes without a prescription. This program helps prevent sharing of needles and decrease the spread of diseases like hepatitis and HIV. Find out if a program like this exists in your state.
I am a strong advocate for preventative medicine and recommend that all people receive Hepatitis B vaccinations. I encourage diabetics to speak to their doctor and pharmacist to help them better manage their disease through preventative care. Diabetics should just add Hepatitis B vaccine to their checklist.