World Diabetes Day is approaching on 14 November 2018. In the lead up to this important awareness day, I attended a workshop held by No5 Chambers in Birmingham about Diabetes and Diabetes related claims to refresh my knowledge of this increasingly prevalent condition.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious lifelong condition where a person’s blood glucose level is too high. There are three types of diabetes –

  1. Type 1 diabetes
  2. Type 2 diabetes
  3. Gestational diabetes

Type 1 diabetes results from an absolute deficiency of insulin in the body due to the body’s failure to produce insulin. It is usually genetic. When there is no insulin available, the body breaks down fat resulting in elevated levels of glucose in the blood. Type 1 diabetics are also at risk of their blood glucose level dropping too low, resulting in hypoglycaemia. If left untreated, this can cause brain damage or death.

Type 2 diabetes results from the body building resistance to insulin, which may be associated with poor lifestyle and obesity. The complications of Type 2 diabetes include vision loss, cardiovascular disease, increased risk of infection, and loss of peripheral sensation. The loss of peripheral sensation commonly causes ulcers on the feet. If left untreated, these ulcers may result in the need for lower-limb amputation to prevent the spread of infection. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Gestational diabetes is caused by a person having a high blood sugar level during pregnancy. It is important to monitor your sugar levels during pregnancy because if not this can result in a number of problems with your baby, including; premature birth, increased risk of stillbirth, increased risk that the baby will develop low blood sugar and increased growth of the baby resulting in problems during delivery. These risks can be avoided with a proper diet or through use of medication.

Prevalence of Diabetes

It is estimated that 1 in 2 adults across the world currently living with diabetes, are undiagnosed.

There were just under 3.7 million diabetics in 2017 in the UK. It is estimated that there are a further 1 million undiagnosed type 2 diabetics.

The increase in the number of diabetics is linked mainly to growing rates of obesity and modern lifestyle choices.

Common Symptoms

The common indicators of diabetes are:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue and irritability
  • Blurred vision 

Delay in diagnosis

A delay in diagnosis of diabetes could occur for a number of reasons. Diabetes may go undiagnosed if a GP ignores relevant symptoms such as excessive thirst and frequent urination or excessive weight loss.

A delay may also occur if a GP fails to carry out the appropriate test for diabetes on a patient who is generally unwell and the cause of the illness is unclear. The GP may form a working diagnosis that the cause of the illness is something else. However, if there is an underlying diabetes which is the cause of the illness, this may not be discovered until much later.

If a GP does carry out a blood test but fails to notice abnormal test results indicating a high blood sugar level, a patient may remain undiagnosed.

If a diabetic patient is undiagnosed, this will result in poor diabetic control and will likely result in worsening symptoms and could lead to serious injuries such as diabetic foot problems.10% of diabetics will have a foot ulcer at some point and diabetics are 15 times more likely to undergo amputation. Most amputations are preventable. If a patient is suffering from peripheral neuropathy (loss of sensation) in their feet, they may not realise that they have an injury to their foot. This could be a cut, graze, blister or ingrown toenail. Someone without neuropathy would likely notice this and find uncomfortable. A diabetic would not, and so the injury to the foot is then susceptible to infection and can quickly grow into diabetic foot ulcers or gangrene.

Diabetic foot problems

Diabetic foot ulcers can sometimes be mistaken to be simple blisters or callouses. Gangrene in the foot can also sometimes be mistaken for bruising. If the infection goes untreated and spreads, the ulcer can grow rapidly. If left for too long, it may not be treatable with antibiotics and could lead to an amputation. Patients with diabetic foot ulcers should be referred to a diabetic foot clinic as soon as possible.

Monitoring your risk

Diabetes UK has a tool on their website which allows you to enter some details and then find out your personal risk of diabetes. See link below.

Contact us

Freeths solicitors have considerable experience with diabetes claims. We have successfully secured life changing compensation for those affected.

Our expert solicitors can help you if you believe there has been a delay in diagnosis or a misdiagnosis of the symptoms of diabetes and this has resulted in an injury caused by the conditions associated with diabetes. Our specialist team will be able to help you claim financial compensation for the injuries and losses that would otherwise have been avoided.

If you are concerned about care which you or a loved one have received, please contact James Cavanagh on james.cavanagh@freeths.co.uk or 01865 781 193 for a free, informal discussion.

Freeths' Clinical Negligence team is led by:

Carolyn Lowe, Partner (Oxford/Milton Keynes) 0186 578 1019 carolyn.lowe@freeths.co.uk

Jane Williams, Partner (Leicester/Nottingham) on 0845 272 5724 or jane.williams@freeths.co.uk

Karen Reynolds, Partner (Derby/Stoke on Trent) on 0845 274 6830 karen.reynolds@freeths.co.uk 

For further information please also visit our website at: http://www.freeths.co.uk/legal-services/individuals/clinical-negligence/