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World Diabetes Day highlights the potential complications of diabetes

Posted: 14/11/2017

Each year on 14 November, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and various other diabetes charities such as Diabetes UK, come together to help raise awareness of diabetes. It is estimated that there are 415 million people living with diabetes around the world, plus millions more who are unaware that they have the condition.

As so many of our clients have suffered devastating consequences as a result of the mismanagement of diabetes, Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence team is passionate about spreading awareness of the condition, including the importance of having regular check-ups. 

What is diabetes?

Diabetes occurs when the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high or the body cannot use it properly. There are two types of diabetes: type 1 is where no insulin is produced at all, and type 2 is where the body does not make enough insulin or the insulin does not work properly. Both result in glucose building up in the blood. 

What are the symptoms? 

Common symptoms include frequent urination, excessive thirst, increased hunger, weight loss, tiredness, lack of concentration and tingling or numbness in the hands or feet. If you think you may have diabetes, be sure to contact your GP who will carry out the appropriate tests and if necessary, commence treatment.

How is it treated? 

Unfortunately there is no cure for diabetes, but treatment is available to either produce or stabilise the glucose in the blood. In many cases, type 2 diabetes can be controlled through healthy eating, losing weight and exercising regularly. However, sometimes drugs such as Metformin are required to either increase or reduce the amount of glucose which is released into the blood.

Most people with type 1 diabetes will require insulin which can either be injected or administered via a pump. Their blood glucose levels will need to be monitored regularly to ensure they do not develop any long term health conditions as a result of raised blood sugar. 

What are the possible complications?

If diabetes is diagnosed and managed appropriately, most people will live a normal healthy life. However, people with diabetes are at a greater risk of developing various health complications including amputation, heart disease and diabetic retinopathy.

  • Foot ulcers, infections and amputation - raised blood sugars can damage the sensation and circulation to the hands and feet. This means people with diabetes are at greater risk of developing foot ulcers and infections which can sometimes lead to amputation if they are not managed appropriately. Good, regular foot care helps reduce the risk of sores developing as well as ensuring that sores which do develop are treated promptly.
  • Heart disease - people with diabetes are five times more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke. This is because prolonged, poorly controlled glucose increases the risk of atherosclerosis which is where the arteries become clogged with fatty substances, increasing the risk of blood clots. 
  • Diabetic retinopathy - blood vessels in the retina of the eye can become blocked and this can damage vision. People with diabetes need to have annual eye checks because whilst diabetic retinopathy can be treated, sight will only be preserved if it is caught early. 

When do diabetic medical negligence claims occur? 

Medical negligence claims can occur when there has been a delay in diagnosing diabetes or when a patient’s diabetic treatment has fallen below an acceptable standard. 

Diabetic patients should be given a diabetic foot check once a year and any injuries/sores must be treated promptly. Medical negligence claims can therefore arise when this does not occur and the patient has to undergo an amputation which would have been avoidable with the correct treatment.

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include but are not limited to floaters (spots and strings in your vision), blurred vision, reduced vision and loss of all or part of your field of vision. When a diabetic patient reports these symptoms, a comprehensive eye examination is required. If this is not done and diabetic retinopathy is missed, the patient may be able to pursue a claim.

Emily Hartland, associate in the clinical negligence team, adds: “I have acted for many clients who have experienced substandard care in relation to their diabetes. Sometimes this has resulted in lower limb amputations. This is often because the diabetic patient has not been appropriately educated about the importance of good, regular foot care or there has been a delay in appropriately managing a diabetic foot ulcer. Having to undergo an amputation is undoubtedly life changing and it is therefore hoped that spreading awareness of this condition on World Diabetes Day will help reduce the likelihood of complications developing.”

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