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Diabetes: The Silent Killer

Diabetes: The Silent Killer

The 14th of November marks World Diabetes Day and with over half of the 347 million people worldwide who suffer from diabetes 1 remaining undiagnosed2 , it’s vital that we educate ourselves about the risks and health issues associated with the disease.

“An estimated 840 000–1.5 million South Africans suffer from diabetes, 3” says Allison Vienings, Executive Director of the Self-Medication Manufacturers Association of South Africa (SMASA). “According to the World Diabetes Foundation, as many as 85% of South Africans with diabetes are undiagnosed,4 ” she adds.

What is diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when the body is unable to produce a sufficient amount of insulin – a hormone produced by the pancreas which allows glucose to enter the body’s cells and in turn converts glucose into energy – or use it effectively.5Diabetes sufferers cannot absorb glucose properly, which results in it circulating in the blood and causing damage over time.

Types of diabetes

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells. This type of diabetes usually runs in families6 and there is at present no cure for it.7

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin or doesn't make enough insulin.8 Obesity is often associated with the development of type 2 diabetes.9

Gestational diabetes can occur temporarily during pregnancy and is caused by hormonal changes which lead to the elevation of blood sugar levels. Usually, patients are no longer diagnosed as diabetic after the birth of the baby. 10

Signs, symptoms and treatment
“Diabetes is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’, 11” says Vienings, “as the symptoms are not always that noticeable and many people are unaware of the fact that they have it. This makes tracking the number of people who suffer from the disease and treating them a difficult task.”

These are some of the signs and symptoms to look out for12 :
• Increased urination
• Excessive thirst
• Skin problems
• Slow healing
• Fatigue and irritability
• Blurry vision

The treatment and management of diabetes involves a continuous and committed effort to taking insulin, exercising regularly to stay at a healthy weight, making healthy food choices, and monitoring blood sugar levels.13

5 fast facts about diabetes:
1. Diabetes is on the rise in every country in the world. 14
2. More than 80% of diabetes' deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. 15
3. In 2004, an estimated 3.4 million people died from consequences of high blood sugar.16
4. Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, amputation and kidney failure. 17
5. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented. 18

“The early detection and treatment of diabetes can reduce the risk of developing complications associated with the disease ,19” explains Vienings. “If you think you may have any or all of the symptoms associated with diabetes, it is vital that you visit your local health care professional or doctor immediately,” she concludes.

1. http://wtww.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs312/en/index.html
2. http://www.idf.org/worlddiabetesday/toolkit/gp/facts-figures
3. http://sweetlifemag.co.za/2011/07/diabetes-in-south-africa-the-facts/
4. http://sweetlifemag.co.za/2011/07/diabetes-in-south-africa-the-facts/
5. http://www.idf.org/diabetesatlas/5e/what-is-diabetes
6. http://www.childrenshospital.org/health-topics/conditions/type-1-diabetes
7. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/type-1-diabetes/DS00329
8. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/type-2-diabetes/DS00585
9. http://www.idf.org/prevention
10. http://www.medicinenet.com/diabetes_mellitus/page6.html
11. http://www.pamf.org/teen/health/diseases/diabetes.html
12. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/symptoms/
13. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/type-1-diabetes/DS00329/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs
14. http://www.idf.org/worlddiabetesday/toolkit/gp/facts-figures
15. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs312/en/index.html
16. http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/diabetes/facts/en/index6.html
17. http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/diabetes/facts/en/index8.html
18. http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/diabetes/facts/en/index9.html
19. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/symptoms/