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General Surgeon notes diabetes as a leading cause of limb loss and increasingly affects younger people in SKN


by Kevon Browne

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – Prevention is better than cure, says a General Surgeon in St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. Natalie Osborne, when treating diabetes, one of our community’s most prevalent non-communicable diseases.


During the July 11 broadcast of Weekly Dose on Island Tea, the General Surgeon warned of the impact diabetes has on those who suffer from the disease, especially when there is a loss of limbs. Dr Osborne said regular bodily checks are necessary for diabetic patients as some suffer from Diabetic neuropathy.


Over time, high blood glucose levels or blood sugar and high levels of fats in the blood from diabetes can damage your nerves which could lead to the loss of a limb. People with diabetes should also be wary of ulcers, blisters, cuts and anything that could lead to an injury or infection.


“The disease is so prevalent we tend to take our eyes off the ball until there’s a complication which I experienced this weekend in a young adult male.”


Dr Osborne warned that the disease no longer exclusively affects older individuals, but more and more young people are developing diabetes.


“Now, we’ve also noticed a pattern that is becoming… and it’s being seen in younger and younger age. So it’s no longer the 70-year-old grandmother that you could leave in the side room, and we often see this or the older gentleman that can just be in bed. We’re seeing it in younger individuals, and they do need to know that there’s life after this, but we want to get to a point where we can prevent this.”


The host of the Weekly Dose outlined three elements closely associated with diabetic conditions that seemingly go hand in hand with diabetes, especially in the black community.


“Often we see that there was a high association of diabetes with high blood sugar; it almost like it’s going hand in hand, especially in our black race. So you have that, and then you have your high cholesterol. So you have that triple combination there that leads to [the] destruction of the blood vessel [and] destruction of the nerves – you don’t feel when you have a cut or wound on your foot, and then that allows you or once you get a wound infection or some kind of injury you do not recognise that.”


People with diabetes are especially susceptible to viruses and bacteria. Dr Osborne explained that the weakened immune systems need added support through regular checkups, assessing the body daily for cuts, cruises or signs of infection, exercising to keep the weight down and more.


“Diabetics are what we call immunocompromised… not as bad as a person who has HIV or a person with kidney failure – but they’re immunocompromised. The blood cells that are responsible for protecting and fighting off the bacteria those blood cells are weakened, so they do not fight as stronger. Remember, your body is like fighting – good against evil – your antibodies and stuff, your white blood cells, are there to fight off the enemy, which are the bacterias that come into your body. And if these white blood cells aren’t functioning well – like having an army but your army is weakened. So when the bacteria comes in, it cannot fight against that. So it is very important. So when you have this diabetic neuropathy, you do not feel, and once you cannot feel, anything can go wrong.”


Vigilance is the order of the day for diabetics and their health. There are no issues too small that should stop a diabetic from seeking medical care.


“Diabetes is really common. The outlook is good once we take care of ourselves. Blood sugar control is essential. Our diabetics sometimes become complacent, and we’re not talking about the extreme where you don’t have any good [things], but we’re talking about everything in balance. When you sit down and speak with most of our diabetic patients, the diet is not adequate. It is filled with lots of carbs, lots of sugar, you know, lots of stuff like starch and rice and flour, and those are the kinds of things that are terrible for the diabetics and increase your blood sugar.”


Dr Osborne continued, “We need to encourage more of our diabetic patients to exercise – we’re not asking you to be long-distance runners but get moving work. Walk, stay active because what that walking does it opens your blood vessels increase the blood supply… the small blood vessels become more developed over time, and what that does is increase the blood flow to places like your feet. You want to keep your weight down. We spoke about your BMI – your body mass index – you do not want to have your patient being overweight; that is actually going to worsen the diabetes and even the high blood pressure. So these are things we want to make sure that we’re looking to.”


See the full interview with Dr Natalie Osborne on diabetes and diabetic foot care here:




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