Beware of diabetes


Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.

Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar.In 2012, an estimated 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes. There are various types of diabetes. These include:

Type 1 diabetes

This is previously known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset. It is characterised by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin. The cause of type 1 diabetes is not known and it is not preventable with current knowledge.

Symptoms are: excessive excretion of urine (polyuria), thirst (polydipsia), constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes and fatigue. These symptoms may occur suddenly.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes (formerly called non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset) results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin.

Symptoms may be similar to those of Type 1 diabetes, but are often less marked. As a result, the disease may be diagnosed several years after, once complications have risen.

Until recently, this type of diabetes was seen only in adults but it is now also occurring in children.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is hyperglycaemia whereby the blood sugar levels become high.  Women with gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of complications during pregnancy and at delivery. They are also at increased risk of type 2 diabetes in the future.

Gestational diabetes is diagnosed through prenatal screening rather than reported symptoms

Effects of diabetes

  • Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Fifty percent of people with diabetes die of cardiovascular disease (primarily heart disease and stroke).
  • Combined with reduced blood flow, neuropathy (nerve damage) in the feet increases the chance of foot ulcers, infection and eventual need for limb amputation.
  • Diabetic retinopathy is an important cause of blindness, and occurs as a result of long-term accumulated damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. One percent of global blindness can be attributed to diabetes.
  • It can lead to kidney failure.


To help prevent type 2 diabetes and its complications, people   should:

  • Maintain healthy body weight.
  • Be physically active  at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days. More activity is required for weight control.
  • Eat a healthy diet of between 3 and 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day and reduce sugar and saturated fats intake.
  • Avoid tobacco, Smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Diagnosis and treatment

Early     diagnosis can be accomplished through relatively inexpensive blood testing.

Treatment of diabetes involves lowering blood glucose and the levels of other known risk factors that damage blood vessels.

Interventions that are both cost-saving and feasible in developing countries include:

  • Moderate blood glucose control. People with type 1 diabetes require insulin; people with type 2 diabetes can be treated with oral medication, but may also require insulin.
  • Blood pressure control.
  • Foot care.

Other cost-saving interventions includes:

  • Screening and treatment for retinopathy (which causes blindness).
  • Blood lipid control (to regulate cholesterol levels).
  • Screening for early signs of diabetes-related kidney disease.

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