People with diabetes concerns urged to seek help

Some delaying contacting GP/hospital team
  • Deborah Condon

People with diabetes are being urged to seek medical advice if they have any concerns about their condition during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the HSE and the national charity, Diabetes Ireland, poorly controlled diabetes can cause serious short-term and long-term complications, so early intervention is key.

"We know people are delaying contacting GPs and hospital diabetes teams in the belief that they are helping those professionals cope with the current COVID-19 burden, but in doing so, they may be risking their own health as their problem escalates. It is vital to seek medical attention early and be treated and reassured," commented Dr Anna Clarke of Diabetes Ireland.

While some diabetes services were curtailed or halted during the pandemic, these are now resuming, and throughout the last few months, healthcare providers have adapted to support people in the self-management of their condition at home.

However, if anyone has concerns or is experiencing an issue that they are unsure about, they should contact their GP or hospital diabetes team.

"The majority of GPs will review any individual with a medical issue initially by phone or virtual consult, and will see face to face if physical examination is required.

"People with diabetes should not be reluctant to make contact and can be reassured that the medical profession will take all precautions necessary to protect both themselves and their patients from exposure to COVID-19," explained Dr Diarmuid Quinlan, a GP and the Irish College of General Practitioners' national clinical lead for diabetes.

Prof Sean Dineen, a consultant endocrinologist and clinical lead with the National Clinical Programme for Diabetes, acknowledged that the health service is experiencing major capacity issues at the moment. However, he urged people with diabetes who have concerns to seek medical attention.

"We are in a very fluid environment and diabetes services are experiencing significant capacity issues at present as the health service deals with this pandemic. However, it must be stressed that delays in seeking medical attention often results in additional care being needed.

"If you have concerns about your diabetes, do not delay in seeking advice from your pharmacist, GP or diabetes team in the hospital who will advise you on the appropriate steps or actions to take," Prof Dineen said.

People with diabetes need to continue to self-manage the condition through healthy eating, regular physical activity, checking their blood glucose levels and taking their medications as prescribed.

If a person with diabetes experiences any of the following symptoms, they should contact their GP or diabetes team:
-Ongoing high blood glucose or ketone levels
-Constantly feeling thirsty or needing to go to toilet more often than usual
-Any breaks in skin that are not healing
-Those with diabetes who are pregnant
-Having an unexplained high temperature
-Having nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea for longer than 24 hours
-Concerns about any aspect of their health
-Symptoms of any illness that are not getting better.

According to Prof Dineen, the COVID-19 pandemic presented the health service "with a set of unprecedented circumstances resulting in disruption to the delivery of non-COVID care, including routine diabetes care".

"The remarkable work carried out by healthcare teams across the country and the support, co-operation and understanding of patients, service users and families during the recent first phase of the COVID-19 response is very much appreciated by all in the health service.

"We have now reached a point where a renewed focus upon the needs of people with diabetes is both timely and clinically necessary," he said.

Over 225,000 people in Ireland are estimated to have diabetes and the condition is thought to affect one in three families.

For more information, see the Diabetes Ireland website here.


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