Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that affect the body's glucose or blood sugar level by causing insulin production or absorption problems. Failure to diagnose and properly manage diabetes can lead to serious complications and death.
If your diabetes has been mishandled by a health care provider, call Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.
Diabetes is a metabolism disorder. Meaning it affects the body's ability to convert food to energy. Glucose is a primary source of energy in the body and the only source of energy for the brain.
Carbohydrates in the body are converted into glucose. Any excess or unused glucose is converted to glycogen that will be used for later energy consumption and to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. The body stores the equivalent of about 2,000 calories worth of glycogen, and any remaining excess is stored as fat.
Insulin, a hormone created in the pancreas, is essential for the body's ability to absorb glucose. There are three main types of diabetes. One affects the body's ability to produce insulin, and the remaining two affect the body's ability react to insulin.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to make sufficient amounts of insulin or is completely unable to make insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must use supplements or insulin shots every day to maintain regular levels.
Type 1 diabetes causes the body's immune system to attack cells in the pancreas, preventing it from producing insulin. Without treatment, too much glucose builds up in the blood, which can cause serious damage. Only 5% of people with diabetes have type 1.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the most common kind of diabetes and occurs when the body develops an “insulin resistance” and does not react to the presence of insulin. Since insulin is needed for the body to be able to absorb glucose, type 2 diabetes leads to an excess amount of glucose in the blood.
Lifestyle habits are a major factor in developing type 2 diabetes. It is associated with an increased intake of sugars in the diet and a lack of physical activity. Currently, the rising diabetes rates correlate with the rising obesity rates in the United States.
Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy and can have serious effects for both the mother and the child. About 9% of all pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. Pregnant women with gestational diabetes face increased birth risks, and both the mother and the child face a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. To read more about gestational diabetes malpractice click here.
Facts and Statistics about Diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2015 in the United States:
- 29.1 million Americans have diabetes or 9.3% of the population
- 21 million Americans have diagnosed diabetes, and an estimated 8.1 million Americans have undiagnosed diabetes
- 37% of Americans or 86 million people aged 20 and older have pre-diabetes
- About 11 million, or 25%, of Americans 65 years of age or older have diabetes
- About 69,000 people die each year as a direct result of diabetes, but that number increases to about 234,000 if diabetes is accounted for as contributing cause along with other causes
- People with diabetes usually have medical care costs 2.3 times higher than people without diabetes
- 85.2% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese
- Hospitalization rates for heart attacks in the United States are 1.8% higher for people with diabetes
- Hospitalization rates for strokes in the United States are 1.5% higher for people with diabetes
- 1 in 5 health care dollars is spent on people with diabetes
Risk Factors and Symptoms of Diabetes
The causes of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are unknown, but there are risk factors that may indicate diagnostic testing and screening. These include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Having high blood pressure or high cholesterol
- A family history of diabetes
- An inactive lifestyle
Symptoms of diabetes include:
- Weight loss
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Blurred vision
- Increased appetite
- Fruity odor or breath
- Sores that will not heal
- Diabetes may also be present without showing any symptoms.
The American Diabetes Association recommends screening tests for anyone with a body mass index (BMI) over 25 when other risk factors are also present and for anyone over 45 with or without other risk factors. With the benefit of blood tests, doctors can detect pre-diabetes, a condition where blood glucose levels are mildly elevated. People with pre-diabetes are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes within 10 years. In pre-diabetes, a person can take actions to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes. With exercise and weight loss, patients with pre-diabetes can reduce their chance of developing diabetes by up to 58%.
To diagnose diabetes, your doctor can order blood tests to measure:
- A1C levels, which are indicative of long-term levels of glucose in the blood
- Fasting blood glucose levels
- The body's ability to process glucose in a glucose tolerance test (OGTT) where the patient's blood glucose levels are tested 2 hours before and 2 hours after drinking a special sweet liquid.
See the chart below for normal vs. abnormal test results.
Diabetes Malpractice In Maryland
Diabetes is a serious but manageable condition with clear symptoms and simple diagnostic tests. Diagnosing and managing diabetes is vital because elevated blood sugar levels have far-reaching consequences in the body. Complications from diabetes include:
- Diabetic retinopathy—a condition that can cause permanent blindness
- Kidney disease
- Heart attack
- Poor blood flow resulting in pain and possible amputations
- Nerve damage or neuropathy—lost sensation in limbs
- Alzheimer's disease
While doctors cannot always prevent these conditions, they can provide timely diagnoses and proper management and treatment to help minimize the risk of diabetes.
When doctors fail to 1) order necessary diagnostic tests, 2) interpret test results, or 3) communicate test results to the patients, they put their patients at increased risk of serious harm.
If your diabetes has been mishandled by a health care provider, contact our offices to learn more about your legal options.