There is no cure – prevention of diabetes is crucial


YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT: Blood sugar levels are increased by the consumption of sugar, which in turn raises the amount of insulin produced by the pancreas

AN estimated 642-million people will be living with diabetes by 2040, with an unknown number dying prematurely from the disease.

According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), the disease has already killed more people than HIV/Aids, TB and malaria combined.

More alarmingly, for the first time it is estimated there are now more than half a million children aged 14 and younger living with type 1 diabetes.

“Of concern is that of the 415-million people living with diabetes, an estimated 193-million – almost half – are undiagnosed,” said Dr Ntsiki Molefe-Osman, diabetes medical advisor at Lilly South Africa.

In support of this year’s IDF campaign themed “Eyes on Diabetes”, Lilly South Africa is encouraging South Africans to educate themselves about the risk factors for diabetes, and to proactively screen for type 2 diabetes in a bid to modify its course.   A person with type 2 diabetes can live for several years without showing any symptoms, during which time significant damage occurs.

Diabetes is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, blindness, renal failure and lower-limb amputation. According to the IDF, more than a third of type 1 and type 2 diabetics will also develop some form of damage to their eyes that can lead to blindness.

“While diabetes can present with many complications, these can be picked up early through proactive screening so that they can be treated and managed, preventing them from becoming more severe and impacting health and quality of life. A diagnosis of diabetes may come as a shock and does require significant lifestyle adjustments, but millions of people with diabetes live full, active lives,” said Molefe Osman.

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder caused by a deficiency or complete lack of insulin secretion by the pancreas, or by resistance to insulin.

  • Type 1 – begins in childhood when a faulty autoimmune response causes the body to destroy pancreatic cells which no longer produce insulin. There is no cure.
  • Type 2 – about 90% of all cases are type 2, when insulin is produced, but the body’s cells are resistant. It is often associated with obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, advancing age, family history, ethnicity and high blood glucose during pregnancy.

Symptoms: Excessive thirst, frequent urination, persistently dry skin, always hungry, blurred vision, drowsiness and nausea.

However, up to 80% of type 2 diabetes can be prevented by the support of specialist doctors, and a huge amount of discipline on the part of the patient in managing the demanding diet, lifestyle and treatment regimen.  There are a number of health challenges:

Diabetic retinopathy (eye disease) which can cause blindness; nerve damage (neuropathy) leading to other problems like pain, tingling and loss of feeling in the extremities, particularly the feet, which can allow injuries to go unnoticed, leading to  infection and possible amputation; kidney failure and heart failure – 50% of people with diabetes die of cardiovascular disease; depression – leading to poor lifestyle decisions.

Smoking is particularly dangerous for people with diabetes.

How to reduce your risk

According to Diabetes South Africa, there are various aspects to good diabetes management including: healthy eating, regular exercise and medication. People with type 1 diabetes require daily insulin injections. Type 2 diabetes may require diabetes tablets and/or insulin to assist the body in making or using insulin more effectively.