Poorly controlled diabetes can cause serious short and long-term health problems if not looked after.
The HSE and Diabetes Ireland are urging people with concerns about their diabetes to seek medical advice from their Pharmacist, GP or hospital diabetes team and reassures them that diabetes services are resuming.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the diabetes community and diabetes healthcare providers have worked and adapted to support and empower people in self-managing their diabetes at home. Maintaining this self-management will continue to improve quality of life and reduce the impact on health and the likelihood of complications. However, if someone has concerns, or is experiencing symptoms or an issue that they are unsure of; they should contact their GP or diabetes team in the hospital. Earlier intervention could prevent more serious complications.
Dr Diarmuid Quinlan, GP and National ICGP Clinical Lead for Diabetes, outlines what to expect: “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”.
Prof Sean Dinneen, Consultant Endocrinologist and Clinical Lead, National Clinical Programme for Diabetes, highlights the importance of seeking help despite the current challenges: “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”.
People with diabetes need to continue to self-manage their diabetes through healthy eating, taking regular physical activity, checking their blood glucose levels if advised to and taking their medications as prescribed. If a person experiences any of the following symptoms, they should contact their diabetes team or healthcare provider:
- 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
- Have nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea for longer than 24 hours
- Concerns about any aspect of their health
- Symptoms of any illness that is not getting better.
Dr Anna Clarke, Diabetes Ireland, asks people to stop risking their health unnecessarily: “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 may be risking their own health as their problem escalates. It is vital to seek medical attention early and be treated and reassured”.
Hospital and community diabetes services are gradually resuming and scaling up delivery of care. Where appropriate and feasible for the service and for patients, they are availing of telehealth options such as delivery of virtual and telephone clinics and the remote delivery of diabetes Self-Management education.
Prof Sean Dinneen added: The COVID-19 pandemic presented our 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”.
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