Why Misdiagnosing Type 1 Diabetes Can be Serious

3 Min Read

Recent research has shown that Type 1 diabetes is often wrongly thought to be just a ‘disease of childhood’. As a result many adults are misdiagnosed. Getting the diagnosis wrong can cause serious harm.

Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose in the blood. There are 2 types of diabetes and they have very different causes. Misdiagnosing one type as the other can cause serious harm.

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is the less common type. Only 10% of diabetics have this type. It normally develops before the age of 40 and usually in childhood. Most people aged over 30 who are diagnosed with diabetes (96% of them) have Type 2. In fact some of the textbooks describe Type 1 as a childhood illness. This means that sometimes doctors assume that any adult developing diabetes has Type 2. This may be wrong.

What is type 2 diabetes?

In Type 2 diabetes either the body does not produce enough or the body’s cell do not react to it. Patients need to adjust their diet or be given medication. This type tends to develop when patients are older. It is often related to lifestyle and many patients are overweight.

Getting the diagnosis wrong

Because Type 1 diabetes is often thought to be a childhood illness, some adults who develop the condition are misdiagnosed. Research by the University of Exeter found that misdiagnosis is common. Where patients were misdiagnosed, it took a year on average to get the diagnosis right.

One person who has Type 1 diabetes is Theresa May. She was initially misdiagnosed with Type 2.

Why is the wrong diagnosis so serious?

Getting the diagnosis wrong can be serious. If the body runs out of insulin people can develop ketoacidosis. Harmful ketones build up in the body. This is called ketoacidosis. Without prompt treatment, the condition can be fatal. The report found that 1 in 9 adults with Type 1 diabetes were admitted to hospital with ketoacidosis.

The message to doctors: Don’t rule out Type 1

So the message to doctors is, ‘Don’t assume that an adult patient who develops diabetes has Type 2. Don’t rule out Type 1’.

Diabetes: Do I have a claim?

The most common medical mistakes giving rise to damages for patients with diabetes are:
• Serious harm from misdiagnosing diabetes
• Failing to make urgent referrals where patients develop blisters, ulcers or injuries to their feet
• Mistakes leading to amputation
• Delayed diagnosis of Charcot Foot

Patients who suffer serious harm from medical mistakes may be entitled to claim damages. Where mistakes have led to patient deaths, their families may be able to bring a claim.

If you are concerned about how you or someone in your family has been managed, please contact a member of the Enable Law team. They will be happy to discuss it with you. You can call us on 0800 044 8488.