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Diabetes is a significant complication of b-thalassaemia major. The aetiology includes iron overload causing b-cell destruction, autoimmunity, insulin resistance secondary to liver disease and development of type 1 or 2 diabetes. There are specific issues for patients with diabetes and thalassaemia which will be discussed here. Impaired carbohydrate metabolism must be detected early, to allow intensification of iron chelation. As life expectancy in thalassaemia rises, diabetic complications are seen. Optimising blood glucose and cardiovascular risk factor control is essential. Insulin remains critical for severely symptomatic patients. With milder hyperglycaemia, oral antidiabetic drugs are increasingly used. At Whittington Hospital, we wanted to address these issues. In 2005, we developed a unique Joint Diabetes Thalassaemia Clinic, where patients are reviewed jointly by specialist teams, including Consultant Diabetologist and Haematologist. The Joint Clinic aims to optimise diabetes, endocrine and thalassaemia care, while supporting patient self-management. A retrospective audit of the Joint Clinic (2005-09), showed improvement in glycaemic control, (Fructosamine falling from 344 umol/l to 319 umol/l). We compared our cohort to the National Diabetes Audit for England (2007-08). Patients attending the Joint Clinic achieved better glycaemic control (target reached: 73% Joint Clinic vs. 63% Nationally), blood pressure control (target reached: 58% Joint Clinic vs. 30% Nationally) and cholesterol control (target reached: 81% Joint Clinic vs. 78% Nationally). 22.7% of our patients had ≥1 microvascular complication. A significant proportion had endocrinopathies (86% hypogonadism, 23% hypoparathyroidism, 18% hypothyroidism). Managing diabetes is one of the greatest challenges a person with thalassaemia can face. Training people to self-manage their diabetes and providing support from specialist teams working together are critical. The unique partnership working of our Joint Diabetes Thalassaemia Clinic allows these very complex patients to be managed effectively.
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