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November 14, 2014
Diabetes related amputations almost double since 2008

According to a physician within the Department of Wellness and Disease Prevention Management, there has been a “frightening” increase in the number of amputations attributed to diabetes since 2008.

Dr Rosmond Adams, speaking to SEARCHLIGHT, said that along with the increase in amputations, the number of diabetes cases recorded last year {{more}}was at the highest it has been within the past six years.

“We have been seeing a frightening trend in that the number of amputations over the years has been increasing,” he lamented.

“You will hear people say… when you go to the hospital all that they are doing is cutting off your limbs,” acknowledged Adams. “But… these are diabetic patients who, if you leave these limbs unattended to… it’s going to get infected and gangrenous, and the person may die of an infection. You have to do that in order to save the life of that person.”

In 2008, there were 59 cases of amputations due to diabetes, which is a non-communicable disease. There were 78 cases in 2009, 91 in 2010, 96 in 2011, and 110 in 2012. Amputation numbers for 2013 are not yet available.

Preliminary figures show that in 2013, there were 98 new cases of diabetes – bringing the total number of cases in St Vincent and the Grenadines to 1,725.

In 2007, there were 1,454 diabetes cases; 1,462 cases in 2008; 1,671 cases in 2009; 1,525 cases in 2010; 1,352 cases in 2011; and 1,554 in 2012.

Dr Adams pointed out that although there was a significant decrease in recorded diabetes cases in 2011, because it is a chronic lifelong disease, this was most likely due to deaths.

“Generally, when you have a drop, it only means one thing – it means [that] patients have died,” he explained.

Dr Adams added that the Ministry of Health is working on separating its data by gender, age and other differentiating factors to help them to more effectively tackle this issue.

He explained that diabetes is not only detrimental to health, but also puts a strain on the health care system and the economy because, like other chronic diseases, it requires lifetime treatment – the cost of which the Government has to subsidize.

“You have to care for them [diabetic patients] over a longer period,” said Adams. “There is a very high economic burden, because you have to care for people for a long time and you have to care for their complications.”

He added: “When complications happen, they [the patients] cannot care for their families, so then the burden ultimately goes back on the Government to see about that.”

Dr Adams said that the increases in amputations and numbers of diabetic patients was evidence that from an individual perspective, the management of the condition is poor.

“Diabetes requires a great deal of personal care. There is only so much that the physician can do,” he insisted.

“It is you as an individual who has to take your insulin as prescribed… eat properly, make sure you exercise, make sure you examine your body for cuts and bruises. You have to be the one who does that.”

Dr Adams stressed the importance of the Ministry getting the message about diabetes out there and increasing advocacy, so that the public can “understand that the complications [of diabetes] are real and take action.”