This amounts to a health time bomb, because the disease is the leading cause of blindness, renal failure, nerve damage and the impairment of blood circulation. A minor cut in the foot can lead to an ulcer that can lead to gangrene and amputation.
Some 338 people had lower limb amputations in 2008. They cost the HSE €7.4 million, but the International Diabetes Federation contends that 90% of the amputations are avoidable.
Despite the prevalence of diabetes, Ireland has the lowest podiatry service for the disease in Europe. A podiatrist is a professional trained to identify and treat diabetics at risk of foot ulceration, but public podiatry services are only available in Cork and Dublin.
The plight of the two Kerry brothers – Dan and Dermot O’Connor – makes for horrific reading. Their story is a grim warning of the inadequacy of diabetic services and the health time bomb that we face.