News about diabetes and how it affects our daily lives may make headlines frequently. It has become one of the most prevalent diseases due to our lifestyle changes. These changes show in our routine and activities, which are now different than before. It can be seen through the high proportion of people infected in the world, whereas many studies have been conducted to stop the spread of diabetes, by highlighting indicators that increase the risk of diabetes such as: drinks, long naps, or bread with butter.
In a recent survey by the International Diabetes Federation in Sudan and with the help of the Sudanese Diabetes Association, the 2017 reported figures indicated more than 2,247,000 cases of diabetes in Sudan. The total youth population is 20,642,000 and the prevalence of diabetes in adults is about 10.9%. There is a big concern that this proportion will increase by 2030.
Therefore, we have to contribute in reducing the spread of diabetes as much as possible. But at first, we need to identify the disease, its types, how it manifests, and the methods of avoidance.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin (a hormone that regulates the level of sugar in the blood), or when the body is unable to effectively use the insulin it produces. Hyperglycemia is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes, and over time it causes serious damage to many organs, especially the nervous system and blood vessels.
Back to the figures and statistics. In 2012 diabetes was a direct cause of 1.5 million deaths worldwide, and high blood glucose caused 2.2 million deaths. In 2014, 8.5% of those who are aged 18 years or older had diabetes worldwide.
Illustration : Purabi Deshpande / Research Matters
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes (previously known as insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes) is characterized by a decrease in insulin production, and requires daily insulin use. The cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown, and it cannot be prevented using current scientific knowledge. Symptoms of this disease include: excessive urination, persistent hunger, weight loss, thirst, tiredness and changes in vision. These symptoms may appear suddenly.
Type 2 diabetes
This type (previously called non-insulin-dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes) occurs due to the body's ineffective use of insulin. It occurs mostly as a result of excessive weight and physical inactivity. Symptoms of this pattern may be similar to those of type 1, but they are less obvious. Therefore, the disease may be diagnosed several years after the beginning of symptoms, i.e. after complications. This type of diabetes was encountered only among adults, but now it can also be found among children.
Gestational diabetes is hyperglycemia in which the blood glucose level increases at a normal level, without reaching the level necessary to diagnose diabetes. It occurs during pregnancy and women with gestational diabetes are more likely to have complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the future. Gestational diabetes is diagnosed by prenatal screening, not by the symptoms reported by the pregnant woman.
Impaired glucose tolerance and glucose imbalance with fasting
Impaired glucose tolerance and glucose imbalance while fasting are two intermediate conditions, they occur in the transition from being normal to being diabetic. People with either condition are very vulnerable to type 2 diabetes, although they can avoid it.
What are the common consequences of diabetes?
Over time, diabetes can cause damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. Adults with diabetes are twice and three times more likely to have heart attacks and strokes. Poor blood flow and neuropathy (neuralgia) in the feet increase the risk of foot ulcers and infections which may lead to amputation. Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness and occurs as a result of the long-term damage to small retinal vessels. Worldwide, 2.6% of blindness is attributable to diabetes. Diabetes is also a major cause of kidney failure.
How to mitigate diabetes?
Simple lifestyle measures have been proven to prevent type 2 diabetes or delay its beginning. To help prevent type 2 diabetes and its complications, you should:
• Work to achieve and maintain healthy weight, as obesity is one of the factors that increase the likelihood of diabetes.
• Exercise - at least 30 minutes of moderate and regular physical activity most days of the week. Weight control requires physical activity.
• Eat a healthy diet of three to five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, and reduce intake of sugar and saturated fat.
• Avoid tobacco use, as smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Diagnosis and treatment:
This disease can be diagnosed at an early stage by inexpensive blood tests. Diabetes treatment is shaped around improved diet, physical activity, lowering blood glucose levels and levels of known risk factors that damage blood vessels. Quitting smoking is also important to avoid complications.
Knowing that, there are certain interventions that can be done, such as:
• Adjusting the moderate level of blood glucose. This requires insulin to be given to people with type 1 diabetes; while people with type 2 diabetes can be treated with oral medications, but they may also need insulin.
• Adjusting blood pressure level.
• Foot care.
• Detecting and treating retinopathy (which causes blindness).
• Adjusting blood lipid level (to regulate cholesterol levels).
• Detecting early signs of kidney disease related to diabetes.
There are many awareness campaigns for diabetes and its patients. November the 14th is the International Diabetes Day, so if you have a chance to visit a check-up center that is specialized in diabetes, never hesitate, and remember that prevention is better than the cure.