All posts by Kat Spicer

Could There be a Cure for Diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious condition that requires careful monitoring and management. It costs the NHS an estimated £14 billion pounds a year to treat. Medical scientists have been studying diabetes for many years and looking for a cure or long term treatment.

Exciting research studies and clinical trials in the last 5 years give hope of cures, or at least greatly reduced symptoms for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

A Possible Diabetes Vaccine

Diabetes is an immune system disorder. The pancreas creates insulin, a hormone that regulates the level of glucose in your blood. With Type 1 diabetics, the immune system attacks the insulin producing cells (islets cells) and stops the production of insulin in the pancreas. This means they are unable to regulate their own glucose levels.

Many companies are working to develop vaccine for diabetes
Many companies are working to develop a vaccine for diabetes. Dawn Huczek | Flickr

Many companies are working to find a vaccine for Type 1 diabetes. The theory is that a vaccine with immunosuppressant drugs could prevent the immune system from attacking the islet cells so the patient could produce insulin.

The problem with this, however, is that by suppressing the immune system you are then making the patient vulnerable to other infections and illness. There can also be a variety of unwanted side effects, such as stomach upsets, kidney problems and reduced production of blood cells.

Scientists are currently experimenting to see if they can target specific parts of the immune system rather than the system as a whole. If this is successful it could also offer hope of a cure for other autoimmune disorders.

Targeting the Destructive Cells

Diabetes UK is funding many diabetes research projects. Dr Michael Christie from the University of Lincoln is studying the immune cells  that are thought to be responsible for attacking the islet cells, which produce insulin. This research is still at an early stage.

Dr Christie will be targeting the immune cells which attack the insulin producing cells, causing diabetes to occur.
Dr Christie will be targeting the immune cells which attack the insulin producing cells, causing diabetes to | Flickr

Dr Christie hopes to develop a therapy that can specifically target these damaging cells and leave the rest of the immune system to work as normal. He is looking to combine a protein found on islet cells with a with antibody protein, which marks the cells to be destroyed. The hope is that this new molecule will attract the destructive cells, which will bind with it and then also be destroyed.

Another project funded by Diabetes UK is the study by Lucy Walker at University College London, she has found immune cells (T-Cells) that can trigger the immune system attack on diabetes cells. They are looking at early autoimmune responses to find how these cells cause diabetes and if they can stop the condition from occurring.

The BCG Vaccine

There are many other ongoing diabetes studies, including research by Dr Faustman. She is also looking at the T cells that trigger the autoimmune response that causes diabetes. She is excited by clinical trials with the Bacillius Calmette Guérin (BCG) vaccine.

Dr Faustman’s team found that the BCG vaccine was killing high levels of T Cells in Type 1 diabetic participants. This shows not only that the vaccine can destroy these cells but that people with Type 1 diabetes have a higher than normal level of T cells.

Further trial phases hope to find if the BCG vaccine can effectively work as a long term affordable treatment for Type 1 diabetes.

The Artificial Pancreas

Dr Roman Horvorka has created a prototype artificial pancreas. This uses a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to check glucose levels every minute. The machine will then calculate the insulin dose required; and automatically administer it.

The Artificial Pancreas
The Artificial Pancreas. Image from

The artificial pancreas is worn like a diabetes pump. It sits under the skin and uses wireless transmission to transfer the blood sugar levels to the monitor. The great news is that this can work 24 hours a day, so it offers the potential to maintain good glucose levels throughout the night as well as all day.

Dr Harkorva’s team completed a clinical trial with the artificial pancreas being worn 24 hours a day by participants with Type 1 diabetes. The results showed that the artificial pancreas was halving the amount of time for which participants had low sugar levels. As everything is done automatically the chance of incorrect dosing is greatly reduced.

This research is still in early testing stages, however, it offers hope of an easier way to monitor and administer insulin. This could be the ideal option for people who struggle to calculate their require insulin dose.

Islet Cell Transplants

In Type 1 diabetes, the insulin producing islet cells have been destroyed by the immune system. The Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has been studying these cells and possible ways for patients with Type 1 diabetes to reproduce insulin. They recently completed an islet cell transplant for diabetic Wendy Peacock.

Wendy was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 17, she is now 43. Since receiving the minimally invasive surgery she has not needed insulin injections. Other trial participants have not required any treatment for diabetes for more than a decade.

Islet Cells in the Panceas
Islet Cells in the Pancreas. Image from

The current islet cell transplant procedure is to infuse the cells into the liver. Although this has had some success, the islet cells don’t always survive in the liver. DRI are currently working to develop their ‘BioHub’. This is a bio-engineered mini-organ that will mimic the pancreas and create insulin. This will be a significant development in the treatment of Type 1 diabetes.

Could Tea be a treatment for Type 2 Diabetes?

Dr Michelle Keske, a senior research fellow at the Menzies Institute in Tasmania has found a surprising potential treatment for Type 2 diabetes – blueberry tea. Their 2015 research trials show blueberry tea may reduce the dependence on insulin as it improves glucose intake in muscles and reduces blood glucose levels.

Other studies, such as those by the Journal of Nutrition have shown berries to be beneficial for diabetes as they have a chemical called anthocyanin that reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol and increases ‘good’ cholesterol. This chemical also reduces insulin resistance and decreases fasting plasma glucose levels.

The Menzies Institute in Tasmania have discovered that blueberry tea can help to reduce glucose levels.
The Menzies Institute in Tasmania have discovered that blueberry tea can help to reduce glucose levels.Health Gauge | Flickr

Cinnamon has also been proven beneficial in reducing blood glucose levels, lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol and increasing sensitivity to insulin so our body is more responsive to it. Other ingredients such as spearmint leaves and raspberry leaf are also suggested to have helpful properties for managing diabetes. This ingredient combination may enhance the effects of berry chemicals, however, research has not yet confirmed this.

The Menzies Institute have conducted pre-clinical trials testing regular intake of herbal blueberry tea and its effects on glucose levels. Gerard Spicer, a participant in one of these trials, found that introducing blueberry tea to his diet greatly reduced his glucose readings.

“Since [drinking the tea] I’ve been waking up with a more normal reading… very rarely high” – Gerard Spicer, trial participant

The tea includes raspberry leaf, spearmint and cinnamon as well as blueberry. Senior Research Fellow Michelle Keske has been studying the tea and its effects on diabetes, with the possible suggestion that it could reduce the need for insulin.

“The tea has enabled that hormone, insulin, to improve glucose uptake into muscle and by doing that it lowers blood glucose levels and it does that by stimulating blood flow”
Michelle Keske, Senior Research Fellow, Menzies Institute

Keske believes the polyphenols and flavonoids in blueberries may be the vital ingredient in the tea. Currently, it is unknown if it is the blueberry alone that stimulates blood flow or if it is a combination of ingredients.  Arguably, you could say it may be more beneficial to eat blueberries themselves as these would contain higher levels of polyphenols and flavonoids.

Green Tea to Increase Insulin Sensitivity

Diabetics will have a greater risk of developing heart disease. Suzanne Steinbaum is a Cardiologist and the Director of Women’s Heart Health at Lennox Hill Hospital. She has found that green tea is very beneficial for Type 2 diabetes and may help to lower your risk of heart disease.

Steinbaum has been researching Japanese studies and notes that people who drank 6 or more cups of green tea a day were 33% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than people who drank less than 1 cup of green tea a week.

studies show people who drink 6 or more cups of green tea are 33% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than people drinking less than 1 cup a week.
Studies show people who drink 6 or more cups of green tea are 33% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than people drinking less than 1 cup a week. Dano | Flickr

Tea contains Polyphenols, these are natural antioxidants found in plants. As green tea contains higher levels of polyphenols than black tea this is better for diabetics. Polyphenols help reduce glucose and makes them ideal for preventing and controlling diabetes. Polyphenols are also great for anyone at risk of heart problems as they widen arteries, this reduces blood pressure, helps to prevent clotting and lower cholesterol.

Dr Stenibaum explains it is the Polyphenols that give the bright colours in fruit and vegetables. Unfermented leaves will contain higher levels of polyphenals and therefore green tea has a higher antioxident level than black tea.

Dr Steinbaum’s research supports the results of studies by the Menzies Institute which found blueberry tea to greatly reduce glucose levels. The brightly coloured berries contain a high level of polyphenols, so knowing these help reduce glucose, it is not surprising to find that blueberry tea lowers sugar levels.

A Potential Drug to Prevent Diabetes

The Menzies Institute have also been looking closely at the causes for Type 2 diabetes, in the hope of preventing the condition before it develops. The have discovered that insulin has a significant stimulatory effect on the flow of blood within our muscles. This also led to the discovery that increasing muscle blood flow will improve the access to insulin and the flow of glucose to the muscle cells.

With this new information, they are looking at how blood flow effects insulin up-take, and how this relationship can be used to improve insulin intake. Dr Stephen Richards is one of the researchers leading this study, along with Dr Keske and professor Stephen Rattigan. He gives hope that new drugs to stop Type 2 diabetes may be close to development:

“We are now actively investigating how insulin causes this blood flow effect, with a view to finding ways of enhancing it. As a result new drugs that reverse the impairment in insulin resistant states and prevent the onset of diabetes may soon be discovered.” – Dr. Stephen Richards, Lead Researcher, Menzies Institute


Looking at the results from recent diabetes studies, we can be confident that more efficient and manageable ways to administer insulin are under development.  There is hope that we could have a cure for diabetes in the next decade or two.

For Type 2  diabetes we can look at not just sugar intake but also consider foods that may help to reduce sugar levels, such as herbal teas and brightly coloured berries.

We will keep our fingers crossed and hope for another medical breakthrough!

Please be advised that there are many on-going and completed diabetic studies and clinical trials. While we have picked some of these to discuss we are not disregarding other diabetes studies, this is a sample of the studies we located during our research. We hope it will keep you positive with the outlook of finding a long term cure for diabetes.


Blueberry Herbal Tea Could Treat Type 2 Diabetes

Blueberry tea attracts attention of medical researchers for its potential as diabetes treatment

Blueberry Tea & Diabetes Treatment

Benefits of Drinking Green Tea for Diabetics

How Much Does Diabetes Cost the NHS

Kidshealth Type 2 Diabetes

The Benefits of Green Tea for Diabetics

Towards a Game-Changing Type 1 Diabetes Vaccine

Pancreatic Islet Transplantation

Blueberry Herba Tea Could Treat Type 2 Diabetes

Vaccine Against Type 1 Diabetes Shows Promise

Start a Career in Nursing – Celebrating International Nurses Day 2018

Nursing requires strength, endurance and compassion. It is also one of the most rewarding careers there are!

Why Choose Nursing?

If you are caring person who wants to help others this may be the career for you. You will need to have strong listening and communication skills. Some patients may have difficult health issues so you’ll need to be understanding and resilient. Nursing can be a challenging role, however, it is also extremely rewarding.

Flickr | OnCall team

If you choose to work for the NHS you will have regular pay reviews and a starting holiday allowance of at least 27 days per year, this will go up with experience. You will receive enhanced pay for out of hours, shift and overtime work. Fully qualified nurses will usually earn a salary of around £23,000, which will rise with experience. You will also be entitled the NHS Pension Scheme.

Nurses work in a large variety of settings from hospital wards, GP surgeries, schools, nursing homes and patient homes to prisons and the military. The NHS currently has an extreme shortage of nurses and this is greatly increasing the workload for nursing staff. If you are a caring person, who wants to help others this could be the career for you.

As a nurse, you will train in one main field, which will be either adult nursing, children’s nursing, learning disabilities or mental health nursing. Qualified nurses can later train for specialised careers such as midwifery, general practice nursing or being a health visitor, as well as management positions.

Nursing is a reliable job sector and nurses will always be needed, with positions available worldwide. As nurses are required 24 hours a day, nursing is a great option if you prefer to work unusual hours or if shift work is more appealing to you.

Depending on your workplace, you may need to flexible with your working hours, however, this can be an advantage if you have children or other commitments at home. Working a shift pattern such as long days (3 x 12-hour shifts for example) may be more suitable than a five day week.

‘It’s much better for me to work three long shifts a week, then I only need childcare for three days. As my shifts vary between weekdays and weekends my family can sometimes help out with childcare.’

~ Lucy Foot, a nurse at Dorchester County Hospital, on balancing motherhood with a nursing career.

There is no upper age limit to start a career as a nurse and your previous work and life experience may give you useful skills that would transfer to nursing. Parenting, caring for a family member with disabilities, working with children or work in a team based environment can give you skills that are almost impossible to teach but are highly desirable in a nurse. If you are bilingual this is also a great benefit in any nursing environment.

How to Get into Nursing

There are a variety of routes into nursing. You can choose to gain experience in an entry level role and work towards further qualification through vocational training courses, such as an apprenticeship.


Nursing lecture theatre
Flickr | University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Sciences

Alternatively, you can apply to a university and study for a nursing degree. Courses will be split between classroom study and work placements, with coursework to complete.

To complete your course you will be required to sit written exams to show your theoretical knowledge and practical examination scenarios so you can demonstrate your skills and experience.

If you opt to go straight into the workplace as a healthcare assistant you can always apply for a university course at a later stage if you decide to gain more formal qualifications.  Relevant experience will help when you are trying to progress in a nursing career and when your employer is assessing your pay scale.


Another route into nursing is with a secondment, this is a great option if you want to keep earning while you work. With a secondment, you attend university part-time while you continue work as a health care assistant or practitioner for an NHS organisation.

If you are currently working as a healthcare assistant and you are looking to develop a career in nursing, talk to your employer as most workplaces will be happy to support staff development. If you do decide to choose this route please note you that you may not be eligible for a  for financial support.

Flickr | Walt Stoneburner

Entry level for University courses vary, there isn’t an official minimum requirement nationally. However, most courses will require at least five GCSE’s at grade C or above and two or three A-levels or equivalent qualifications.

You can check university courses online and they will advise the entry requirements. This will also give you a good overview of the course and what will be expected of you. For help selecting a university course and for advice on your application visit the UCAS site.

If you are completing your GCSE’s and looking to go into nursing in the future you should consider this when making your A-level choices. Subjects such as biology or social sciences will be useful in your future career and may give you an advantage on your application.

As well as general nursing, there are a variety of courses and positions available. You may want to consider your long-term goal and if you would like to work towards a specialist career. Having a long- term plan will also help you to stay focused during your studies.

Stand out on your Application

If you are applying for a nursing course at university you may want to consider getting some paid or voluntary experience first. This will give you the chance to make sure nursing is the right career for you. It also shows course admissions boards that you are keen and will make your application stronger.

Course admissions boards receive hundreds of applications every year, you want to make sure your application stands out. If you can demonstrate a genuine interest in the field and show you have relevant experience it will really enhance your application.

“I got into nursing because I had a desire to help people and liked the idea of being there for someone during the hard times of their life. […]

I was turned down by one University for failing a written exam despite having dyslexia, which affects my spelling. I applied for Bournemouth University because I loved the course layout and the area. The interview was about how humanising we would be as nurses rather than how well we could do maths and spell.”

~ Cody Kelly, second year nursing student at Bournemouth University

You will be required to write a personal statement to explain why you want to start a career in nursing and work experience will give you a good basis for your personal statement.

Volunteer Nursing Abroad
Flickr | US Army Africa

Voluntary Work

Voluntary work doesn’t have to be limited to UK hospitals or care homes, you could apply for work experience abroad, this also shows you are happy to work in new environments and that you can be independent.

Useful experience doesn’t have to be in a nursing setting, any roles that show you work well in a team, have leadership skills, demonstrate strong communication skills or roles that show you are interested in working with people will look great on your application.

If you would like further information on starting a career in nursing you can visit the NHS career planning and National Career Services websites.


Hand Washing & How to Prevent Dermatitis

Handwashing with Soap
Hand washing with soap Flickr | Arlingtonva County

During observational studies the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that health care workers cleaned their hands, on average, from five to thirty times during a shift. Whilst this is great for infection control you may be damaging your skin if you are regularly washing your hands.

Ecolab Spirigel Complete Pump 60ml
Ecolab Spirigel Complete Pump 60ml

The British Association of Dermatitis (BAD) suggests washing your hands more than 10 times a day increases your change of skin conditions such as Dermatitis. One of the most common forms is Irritant Contact Dermatitis which has symptoms from irritation, dryness and itching to cracking and bleeding.  It is very common amongst medical professionals.

Dermatitis can occur due to many factors, including soaps, harsh chemicals and repeated contact with water. Frequent hand washing can remove the oils in your skin that are vital to protect and moisturise it. Without these your hands can become dry and your skin will be more vulnerable to chemicals and irritants. Allergic Dermatitis can also occur with hand sanitising products and gloves.

Protect Your Hands

At Medisave we know how important it is to practice good hand hygiene but we don’t want your hands to suffer. The following steps can help to reduce soreness and protect your hands.

Love your hands
Love your hands Flickr | le vent le cri

Use an Alcohol Based Hand Sanitiser

When hand washing use an alcohol based hand sanitisers containingemollients (moisturisers) rather than soap to reduce Dermatitis symptoms. Emollients are a mixture of oils (creams), paraffin (ointments) and water. These hydrate and smooth the skin, helping to reduce soreness and prevent skin from become dry or cracked.

Ecolab Spirigel Complete Virucidal Alcohol 750ml Hand Gel
Ecolab Spirigel Complete Virucidal Alcohol 750ml Hand Gel

Swap to Hand Sanitisers

These use less fluid so they are gentler on your skin. These will also last longer than a regular handwash so can be great for your budget too!ecolab soap banner

Check Your Glove Material

Check your glove material if you are getting flare ups, you may be having an allergic reaction to the material. We sell a variety of gloves including latex free versions.

Ecolab Spirigel Complete Pump 500ml
Ecolab Spirigel Complete Pump 500ml

When selecting a glove material (PVC, Nitrile, latex etc) you should consider the chemicals or allergens being used. The British association of Dermatologists (BAD) advise that gloves should be clean and dry inside and not broken. This is important as applying gloves to wet hands can increase the chance of skin irritation.

Wear a Barrier Cream

Wear a barrier cream when you are dealing with chemicals and gloves can’t be worn. This should stop irritants from making contact with your skin. After the process you can then cleanse your hands with an alcohol based hand sanitiser or foam sanitiser.

hand moisturising

Moisturise Your Hands

Moisturise your Hands will help to reduce dryness, soreness and cracking. Non-scented products will be less likely to cause flare-ups. Some petroleum based moisturisers can cause Latex gloves to deteriorate, if you are working with these would be better to opt for a water based moisturiser.

Use pH Neutral Soaps

Some situations do require hand washing with soap and water rather than using a sanitiser.  The gentlest soaps will be pH neutral. Aloe Vera is often used in moisturisers as it has great healing properties, however we suggest choosing a lanolin option as this is a better moisturiser.

Ecolab Spirigel Complete Pouch 800ml
Ecolab Spirigel Complete Pouch 800ml

Although Lanolin is a great moisturiser it can sometimes cause allergic reactions, particularly if its not a pure form. There are many Lanolin products on the market, you should opt for a pharmaceutical product containing medical grade Lanolin. These will contain the purest form of Lanolin and will be less likely to cause allergic reactions or aggravate Dermatitis.

Visit Your GP

Please note that this is a guide to help prevent and handle dermatitis, however it should not replace professional medical advise or HSE recommendations. If you are experiencing extremely sore hands or the symptoms do not improve please visit your GP. They can check for any skin conditions you may have and in some circumstances they may prescribe medication.


What is Blood Pressure and How Do You Keep It Healthy?

Blood pressure cuff on mans arm

When you have your blood pressure tested it can be difficult to understand the results and how they are going to affect you. We have created the following guide to help you understand what blood pressure is, how to identify if you are in a risk category and how you can maintain a healthy blood pressure.

What is Blood Pressure?

When your heart beats it is pumping blood around your body and supplying you with oxygen and energy. Blood pressure is the measure of how hard your blood is pushing against the sides of your blood vessels as it flows around your body. High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) puts extra strain on your arteries and can lead to many health problems. These include stroke, heart attack, coronary heart disease, kidney disease and dementia. Low blood pressure (also known as hypotension) is generally not a concern. However sometimes there can be issues if your blood level becomes unnaturally low, such as dizziness or fainting.

Blood pressure is measured in ‘millimetres of mercury’ (mmHg) and will be made up of two numbers. The first number is your Systolic blood pressure, this is the highest your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats. The second number is the diastolic blood pressure. This is the lowest level your blood pressure drops to between beats. Ideally your blood pressure should be should be below 140/90mmHg.

What is Healthy Blood Pressure?

The systolic blood pressure (the first number, the highest level when your heart beats) should ideally be between 90 and 140. The diastolic blood pressure (the second number, the lowest level when your heart rests between beats) should be between 60 and 90.

An illustration from The American Heart Association showing how blood pressure is displayed.
An illustration from The American Heart Association showing how blood pressure is displayed.

Why you should monitor your Blood Pressure

It is estimated by the British Heart Foundation that as many as 7 million people in the UK are living with undiagnosed high blood pressure, this is more than 1 in 4 adults. The symptoms for high blood pressure are subtle and can easily be overlooked. The only way to know your blood pressure is to test it. You should particularly pay attention to this if you are overweight, elderly, have diabetes, are a smoker, are a heavy drinker or if you have a family history of high blood pressure.

The British Heart Foundation recommend that anyone over 40 has a health check with their GP or nurse practitioner. This includes a blood pressure test. You can measure your blood pressure at home or visit your GP if you would prefer them to check this. If you have any concerns with your blood pressure please visit your local GP.

Blood Pressure Monitor and reading.
Blood Pressure Monitor and reading.

How to Lower Your Blood Pressure

By keeping your blood pressure low you can reduce the chance of heart attack or stroke. You can lower your blood pressure by having a healthy diet and exercising regularly. A healthy balanced diet should include a variety of fruit and vegetables and be low in fat, sugar, salt and alcohol. Low calories or fad diets are not recommended as your body will not get the required nutrients for you to function efficiently, and you may find you feel lethargic or faint. Your GP may also prescribe medication to reduce your blood pressure.

Blood Pressure Medication
cogdog/Flickr/CC by 2.0

You don’t have to be an athlete to increase your exercise – simple changes like walking rather than driving, taking the stairs rather than the lift or doing a 15 minute work-out will increase your fitness. There are also lots of fitness activates you can do, such as joining a local club, bowling, or swimming.

The independent charity Drinkaware are working to lower alcohol misuse and harm in the UK. They have been researching the effects of alcohol consumption and advise warn that one of negative health effects from excessive alcohol consumption is hypertension (high blood pressure). Drinkaware recommended we consume less than 14 units a week (spread through out) and have several drink free days. They note that excessive caffeine, lack of exercise and junk food can also lead to high blood pressure. Drinkaware suggest you should aim to cut down if you have more than 4 cups of tea, coffee (or another caffeinated drink) per day. If you are concerned about your blood pressure please visit your GP for a check-up. If needed they can prescribe medication to reduce your blood pressure.

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Introducing the HeartSine Samaritan® PAD Defibrillator Range

Sudden cardiac arrest can happen at any time to anyone and without any warning. When cardiac arrest occurs fast response time and correct CPR procedure are vital for giving the patient a good chance of survival. This is where a defibrillator can make all the difference.

When it comes to choosing a defibrillator you want something that is going to be easy to use, reliable and has a long life, so that it’s available when you need it. The new HeartSine Samaritan® PADs are an excellent range of defibrillators that meet these requirements.

Continue reading Introducing the HeartSine Samaritan® PAD Defibrillator Range

What is Epilepsy? – Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects over 600,000 people in the UK, almost 1 in every 100 people. It causes sufferers to have recurring seizures. Some people with epilepsy may stop having seizures over a period of time, however most epileptics will have the condition for life. Epilepsy can start at any age but most often begins during childhood.

Continue reading What is Epilepsy? – Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment