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Type II Diabetes Diagnosis Delay

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This month Public Health England have published a report entitled ‘Sugar Reduction: The Evidence for Action.’ Unsurprisingly the report found that as a nation we are consuming too much sugar. The health risks of having a diet heavy in sugar are well publicised by the media but it is arguable how useful this coverage is in terms of educating us about these conditions. Many of those covering the ‘Sugar Tax’ story have implied a direct causal connection between consuming too much sugar and the development of type 2 diabetes, but is it really that simple?

Sufferers of type 2 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin or the body is not able to use the insulin produced. This means that the glucose stays in the blood and is not used by the body as fuel. The sufferer may develop symptoms such as tiredness and extreme thirst and, if left untreated, high levels of glucose in the blood can lead to kidney disease, heart problems and nerve damage. A swift diagnosis can help to minimise these risks.

Several years ago the charity Diabetes UK found that nearly half of the people they surveyed believed that the cause of type 2 diabetes was ‘eating too much sugar.’  Whilst eating a diet high is sugar can cause individuals to become overweight (which does place you at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes) eating sugar in itself does not cause diabetes. Clearly this is an oversimplification and a potentially dangerous misconception if it causes the public to believe that they are not at risk, by virtue of their low sugar consumption, when in fact they may be at considerable risk.

Whilst medical professionals are agreed that being overweight increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes many are keen to point out that there are other risk factors (associated with age, ethnicity and family history) which the public need to be aware of. Although it is clear that overconsumption of sugar can lead to poor health for a variety of reasons, not all those who develop type 2 diabetes will be overweight and of the overweight people who do develop type 2 diabetes, not all of these people will necessarily have a diet which is particularly high in sugar.

Lack of awareness as to the risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes and the fact the symptoms can come on gradually over time means that sometimes sufferers don’t seek medical advice until permanent damage has been caused.  Others present to their GPs with symptoms of type 2 diabetes and these signs are missed, causing a delay in diagnosis and treatment.

For a diabetic, even seemingly minor injuries can quickly escalate into a far greater problem. Because diabetes can reduce blood flow to the feet this means that feeling can be reduced which makes it harder for the diabetic to tell if they have suffered any blisters or cuts to the feet.  It also takes much longer for the damage to heal.

If a diabetic develops an ulcer as a result of a foot sore and no medical treatment is sought, or the treatment sought is poor, then this can lead to amputation of the lower limb. Good foot care and proper treatment of wounds can help to avoid such a drastic procedure.

Diabetes UK recently estimated that 850,000 people in England may have diabetes but have not been diagnosed. Whether the delay in diagnosing diabetes is caused by medical professionals failing to spot the signs or by patients not seeking advice regarding their symptoms, it is clear that the consequences of not receiving early intervention can be dire and potentially life threatening.

If you think you, or your child, may have suffered an injury as a result of negligent medical treatment and would like to speak with a member of the Lester Morrill Clinical Negligence team, please call on 0113 245 8549 or contact us by email at help@lmlaw.co.uk .

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