The word diabetes is written on a sticky note.

Imagine you’re diagnosed with asthma, the flu, or a simple infection. Your doctors prescribe some meds and send you home. They insist you’ll feel better in a few days…but you only get worse. 

As it turns out, you don’t have a simple illness at all.  Your real diagnosis is actually something far more serious: diabetes. But your doctors missed the signs. By the time they figure it out, you’ve suffered permanent damage to your health. 

Sound too far-fetched to believe? Unfortunately, diabetes misdiagnosis is far more common than you might think. Take a look at these sobering facts:

  •  At least 7.2 million people in the U.S. have diabetes but don’t know it, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC). 
  • People who have diabetes but are undiagnosed are at risk for developing serious complications that can affect their quality of life. 
  • Sometimes, delayed diagnosis of diabetes can be fatal. 

In honor of Diabetes Awareness Month and World Diabetes Day (November 14th), we’re going to take a look at how diabetes misdiagnosis happens, and what you can do to prevent it. If you believe that you or a family member are a victim of misdiagnosed diabetes type 1 or type 2, contact Hampton & King today to discuss your case. 

What Diabetes Is and How Diabetes Misdiagnosis Occurs  

Diabetes is a chronic illness that causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to be too high. There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.

People with type 1 diabetes can’t make insulin, a hormone that helps glucose enter our cells and fuel our bodies. People with type 2 diabetes either don’t produce enough insulin, or the insulin they produce isn’t effective. Both types are serious. 

Doctors sometimes mistake diabetes for something else because its symptoms are similar to those many other medical conditions. Here are some of the most common signs of diabetes:

► Intense thirst

► Needing to urinate a lot

► Feeling tired and fatigued

► Nausea 

► Frequent infections

► Very dry skin

► Blurry vision

► Unexplained weight loss

► Feeling hungry all the time

Doctors may confuse diabetes with the flu, chronic fatigue, viral infections, pancreatitis, or other illnesses. Or, they may diagnose a patient with the wrong type of diabetes.

An image of a diabetic glucose meter reading someone's blood sugar level.

Misdiagnosed Diabetes Type 1

One of the most common cases of diabetes misdiagnosis is when a physician mistakes type 1 diabetes for type 2 diabetes. While they share many symptoms, treatment for each type is different. That’s why it’s so important to reach the correct diagnosis. 

A case of misdiagnosed diabetes type 1 can be extremely dangerous. For Erin Clausen, it would have had terrible consequences, had she not done her own research and insisted on further testing. Although she had begun treatment for type 2 diabetes, her symptoms kept getting worse. A conversation in a diabetes Facebook group led her to purchase some testing supplies at the drugstore, and Erin checked her glucose levels herself. The results were alarming! 

At the insistence of her friends in the Facebook group, Erin headed to the emergency room, where 4 units of fast-acting insulin saved her from going into diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious condition that can lead to coma or death. Later, an endocrinologist correctly diagnosed her with type 1 diabetes. 

But what had led doctors to assume Erin had type 2 diabetes?  Why didn’t they administer the correct tests? The reason was simple: her age. Erin was 42 years old, so she didn’t fit the typical “juvenile” profile of most Type 1 sufferers. But the reality is that 25% of people with Type 1 are diagnosed after age 25. 

How to Avoid a Diabetes Misdiagnosis

Most of the time, diagnosing diabetes is as simple as ordering a urine test to check for high levels of glucose. If this test comes out positive, doctors will order a blood test to confirm. But sometimes physicians fail to administer these tests because they assume that symptoms are due to some other illness. 

Other times, diabetes misdiagnosis occurs because a doctor misreads tests results, or equipment is faulty. In addition, they may overlook the possibility of diabetes because a person has no family members with the disease, is not obese, or does not have high blood pressure or cholesterol. (These signs correlate with type 2 diabetes).

To avoid a diabetes misdiagnosis, don’t wait to contact your doctor if you experience diabetes-related symptoms. Ask questions, and if you’re not satisfied with the answers, seek a second opinion. If you have been misdiagnosed, you may need to file a lawsuit. Not sure if you have a lawsuit on your hands? Click here to learn more about medical malpractice cases.  

A little boy with diabetes gets his blood sugar tested with the help of his dad.

When to File a Diabetes Lawsuit

Are you or a loved one the victim of diabetes misdiagnosis? You may be entitled to compensation for the consequences of misdiagnosis, such as the following:

► Medical bills

► Pain and suffering 

► Loss of earnings from being unable to work 

► Modifications that you must make to your home

► Permanent disability 

► Ongoing care you may need as a result of injury 

Keep in mind that filing a diabetes lawsuit is not a simple task. It’s best to seek help from a knowledgeable law firm before you begin this process. Contact Hampton & King today for a free consultation to discuss your case.