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Medical Malpractice

When Diabetes Goes Undiagnosed

July 26, 2021

When diabetes is misdiagnosed or not diagnosed, it can cause adverse health outcomes and even death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7.3 million adults — or 21.4% of US adults with diabetes — have undiagnosed diabetes. Their symptoms may, therefore, be attributed to different conditions.

Diabetes Misdiagnosis or Mismanagement

Even a small delay in diabetes diagnosis is extremely dangerous and can be fatal in some cases. The most common misdiagnosis of diabetes is when Type 1 is mistaken for the serious but less dangerous Type 2 diabetes. According to research, more than a third of adults over 30 who initially receive a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes may have Type 1 diabetes.

The early symptoms of Type 2 diabetes are very similar to those of Type 1. The only accurate way of diagnosing Type 1 diabetes is by testing for diabetes-related antibodies. A Type 1 diabetes diagnosis is confirmed if ICA (islet-cell antibodies), GADA (glutamic acid decarboxylase antibodies), and/or 1A-2A (insulinoma-associated protein 2 antibodies) are present in someone showing diabetes symptoms.

Correct diagnosis is critical because treatment for the two types of diabetes vary. Treatment for Type 2 diabetes may involve insulin-based medication. The body of a person with Type 1 diabetes is unable to produce insulin. It can be highly risky for a person with very low insulin production to use medications that force his or her pancreas to create more insulin.

Besides Type 2 diabetes, there are several other ailments that people experiencing Type 1 diabetes symptoms are frequently misdiagnosed with, such as:

Gestational Diabetes

A pregnant woman could be wrongly assumed to be suffering from gestational diabetes instead of Type 1 or 2 diabetes.

Eating Disorders

Type 1 diabetes can cause extreme weight loss because of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and high blood sugar. If a doctor does not perform blood glucose and urine tests, he or she may diagnose a patient with eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia.


High blood sugar can cause lethargy, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms that can be easily mistaken for stomach flu or other common viruses.

Potential Complications of Untreated Diabetes

Misdiagnosis of diabetes can persist for years. When diabetes is not accurately diagnosed, it can lead to severe complications like:

  • Kidney failure
  • Heart disease
  • Eye damage
  • Nerve damage
  • Cognitive problems
  • Foot problems

A person with diabetes who is not correctly diagnosed can suffer serious physical harm as well as emotional and psychological trauma. He or she may miss work, lose wages, and spend more on health expenses. Chicago medical malpractice lawyers help patients who are not diagnosed properly to recover the damages suffered. Victims of missed diagnosis can sue, even if they signed a waiver for medical malpractice.

About The Author

Photo of Jeffrey  Goldberg
Attorney Jeffrey M. Goldberg has spent his entire professional career handling cases involving birth injury, medical malpractice, product liability and related accidents.