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5 Point Guide to Diabetes

5 Point Guide to Diabetes

In this 5 point guide to diabetes we explore everything you need to know about the condition. If you would like any further information or have some unanswered questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We are a law firm specialising in medical negligence claims, and will be able to help you understand whether your diabetes has been negligently managed by the medical profession.

5 things you need to know about diabetes

Five things you need to know about diabetes:

1. What is diabetes?

Diabetes is when the body cannot control the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood because of a problem producing insulin.

Insulin is a hormone which is made by the pancreas, an organ that sits just below the stomach. Insulin plays a vital role in the metabolic process because it transfers glucose from the food we eat into energy, which we need for every single bodily function.

Glucose is found in both simple and complex carbohydrates, which covers foods such as potatoes, sweets, cakes, pasta and bread. When we eat these foods, the stomach breaks them down and glucose is released into the bloodstream. This triggers the pancreas to secrete insulin into the bloodstream, which in turn prompts the cells to 'open up' and absorb the glucose. The cells proceed to transfer the glucose into energy.

Someone with diabetes will not be able to complete this process of their own accord because there is something wrong with their production of insulin. This can vary from person to person, but it can be that the pancreas does not produce any insulin, does not produce enough insulin, or produces insulin that is ineffective. In some cases the body will mistake insulin-producing cells as foreign bodies and attack them, making it an autoimmune disorder.

Because of the absence of insulin, the glucose levels in the blood will rise, leaving the individual lacking in energy.

2. Have I got diabetes?

The NHS estimates there are 3.9 million people with diabetes in the UK. It is therefore a very common condition, although type 2 diabetes is far more prevalent. We explore the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes in greater detail below.

However, it is worth noting here that someone with type 1 diabetes may develop noticeable symptoms very suddenly, whereas those with type 2 diabetes may experience vague symptoms for a number of years before a diagnosis is actually made.

The symptoms of diabetes are:

  • Feeling extremely tired and irritable
  • Being very thirsty
  • Urinating more frequently
  • Slow-healing cuts and wounds
  • Blurry vision
  • Weight loss
  • Itching around the genitalia

If you are suffering from the symptoms described above, you should seek medical help from your GP. A simple finger-prick test will show whether your blood sugar levels are abnormal. If so, further blood and urine tests will confirm a diagnosis.

3. What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is also called juvenile diabetes because it usually develops during childhood or early adolescence. Around 10% of people with diabetes have type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented and is a life-long condition which cannot be cured.

Type 1 happens because the immune system starts to attack the cells which create insulin. It is not known what causes this autoimmune reaction, but it is thought the condition runs in families. In order to regulate blood glucose levels, people with type 1 diabetes must inject themselves with insulin at regular intervals.

Type 2 diabetes is more common is people over the age of 40, although it is becoming increasingly widespread amongst younger generations due to the rise of obesity. Around 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. It can be prevented with diet and exercise, and new research suggests it can also be reversed if diagnosed and acted upon quickly.

Type 2 diabetes happens because the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or produces insulin which the cells do not respond to. This occurs because certain diet and lifestyle factors put the cells under stress, which in turn cause them to become insulin-resistant. These factors include obesity, smoking, and leading a sedentary lifestyle.

Obesity is a dominant cause of type 2 diabetes because when the cells are unable to process all the glucose that is being eaten, they will alter the way in which they respond to insulin. The cells then effectively make themselves insulin resistant. Type 2 diabetes can be effectively managed by a change in diet and lifestyle, although some will also need to take medication.

There is in fact a third type of diabetes: gestational diabetes. This occurs for the duration of a woman's pregnancy and stops once the baby is born. It must be carefully monitored but can usually be controlled with diet.

4. Why does diabetes cause so many problems?

Diabetes is known to cause a large number of health problems, an issue which has been popular with the media lately. The news that there are 135 diabetes-related foot amputations in England each week was especially shocking.

Along with foot amputation, the complications associated with diabetes include:

  • Loss of vision (diabetic retinopathy)
  • Nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy) causing pain and loss of sensation
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Fertility issues, with increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth

These complications all arise because persistently high blood glucose levels will damage the nerves, blood vessels and organs. It seems incredible that high blood sugar levels can cause this much harm, but even just a slight abnormality can cause untold amounts of damage, if it continues for too long.

5. Can diabetes-related complications be avoided?

It is possible to avoid diabetes-related complications with good care. If the condition is kept under control and blood sugar levels remain stable, the patient can lead a healthy life. In order to achieve this, both the patient and their medical team must take responsibility to monitor and manage the condition.

The patient must check their blood glucose levels regularly and make adjustments to their medication and diet accordingly. With type 2 diabetes, the patient must also make an effort to control their condition through lifestyle changes.

The medical professionals involved must also monitor a patient's overall health (including blood glucose levels) and amend the medication/treatment prescribed as required. A series of annual health checks should also be offered, such as eye tests and foot checks.

Diabetes medical negligence solicitors

If poor medical care or management causes a patient to suffer diabetes-related complications, there could be grounds for a medical negligence claim. For example, it may be that a patient is admitted to hospital but during their stay medical practitioners do not provide sufficient insulin and/or do not monitor their blood glucose levels properly. This can result in serious, life-threatening complications.

If you or your loved one has been injured by substandard medical care, please contact us at Glynns Solicitors.

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To find out more about making a medical negligence claim, please get in touch with our team today. We will advise whether or not you are eligible to pursue a claim for compensation. If so, we can help you get the financial redress you deserve.

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