‘Fear’ big issue with diabetics
A senior doctor says many diabetics are losing their limbs in part because of the fear of long waiting times at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), as well as a general fear of the institution.
As such, said consultant general surgeon Dr Maurice Walrond, when they eventually came, it was often too late for treatment, contributing to the high number of amputations for which Barbados has become known.
“One of the things I have noticed is that [diabetic] patients come to us late. There are a lot of bad as well as good at the QEH, but we get patients late because they either don’t want to wait in the A&E [Accident & Emergency Department] or are afraid because of a bad experience.
“Normally if we get a problem very early, we can solve it without amputating, but if they come late, it’s an issue and part of it is definitely fear of the QEH. [However], they should not, in my mind, fear the QEH but if so, then find an alternative to do the job,” he added.
Walrond, who was the guest speaker at a general meeting of the Diabetes Association of Barbados last Saturday at the Barbados Public Workers’ Cooperative Credit Union on Belmont Road, St Michael, said it was for this reason he co-founded the Diabetes Services & Solutions Inc. in nearby Belleville as such an alternative.
He said the only way to turn the trend of high amputations around was with patient education and empowerment.
“We are called the amputation capital of the world as we have a very high rate of amputations, although there are places with slightly higher rates than us. What we need to do is educate and have awareness. The onus must be on education to empower patients to take control of their blood sugar and to go to their doctor and get their feet checked for issues to do with blood supply and nerve damage. If we concentrate on those things, the amputation rate will fall,” he said.
On the other hand, Walrond said, despite amputations being a negative thing in general, the ages of the amputees were a reflection that Barbados’ health care system was good, adding that amputations actually saved lives.
“A lot of our patients are extremely elderly but are coming to us well enough that we think they can get an amputation to prolong their lives. Anybody who is living to 90-something says our health care system is not as bad as we think it is and an amputation can definitely prolong your life,” he said.
Walrond, whose presentation was titled Diabetes And Your Feet: What You Need To Know, told audience members to be aware of numbness or burning in their feet, examine their feet daily and to keep them clean, dry and moisturised.
He also told them to be wary of a loss of hair on the legs, a darkening of the skin, pain when walking or even at rest, a loss of pulse in the legs and wounds healing slowly, as these were signs of neuropathy (nerve damage) and/or loss of blood flow.
The doctor said diabetics should not soak their feet in anything but room temperature water as they might be unable to feel if it was too hot or cold. They should also be cautious when trimming their nails as such a simple thing has been known to lead to “disaster”. (CA)