On the occasion of World Diabetes Day, I’m reproducing an information sheet on diabetes from the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life in Mauritius. It gives an insight of the types of diabetes, the situation in the world and at the local level, risk factors, signs and symptoms, and management and prevention of diabetes. I hope you find it useful as it’s becoming one of the most common ailments of the century.
“What is Type 1 diabetes?
Under the influence of the hormone insulin produced by the pancreas, sugar is converted into heat and energy in the body. If too little or no insulin is formed by the pancreas, the sugar is no longer adequately utilized; the sugar content of the blood rises, and the unused sugar is excreted in the urine. This condition is known as Type 1 diabetes and develops frequently in children and adolescents.
What is Type 2 diabetes?
In certain people, enough insulin is produced by the pancreas but the body is resistant to the action of insulin. Again the sugar in the body is not adequately used, the sugar content of the blood rises and the unused sugar is excreted in the urine. This condition is known as Type 2 diabetes, occurs most frequently in adults and accounts for about 90% of all cases.
What is the global situation?
According to the World Health Organization, more than 240 million people worldwide have diabetes. Within 20 years, this number is expected to rise to 380 million. And much of this increase will occur in developing countries.
What is the situation in Mauritius?
The Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Survey carried out in 2004 indicates that 20 % of the adult population aged 30 years and above have diabetes. This amounts to above 110,000 Mauritians who have diabetes. Furthermore, 12% of Mauritians have Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT), that is, borderline diabetes.
Is diabetes a problem among children?
Children are not spared from this global epidemic, with its debilitating and threatening complications. Type 1 diabetes is growing by 3 % per year among children and adolescents, and at an alarming rate of 5% per year among school children. It is estimated that 70,000 children under 15 develop Type 1 diabetes each year (almost 200 per day).
Type 2 diabetes also is growing at an alarming rate in children and adolescents. For example, in the United States of America, it is estimated that Type 2 diabetes represents between 8 and 45% of new-onset diabetes cases in children. In Japan, over a period of 20 years, Type 2 diabetes has doubled in children, so that it is now more common than Type 1.
For this reason, the theme of this year’s World Diabetes Day, usually marked on 14 November each year, is “Diabetes and Children“. The campaign aims to raise awareness on the rising prevalence of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents. Early diagnosis and early education are crucial to reducing complications and saving lives. The healthcare community, educators, parents and guardians must join forces to help children living with diabetes, prevent the condition in those at risk, and avoid unnecessary death and disability.
What are the risk factors?
A number of factors are known to be related to the development of diabetes. These are:
- unhealthy eating habits;
- overweight or/and obesity;
- physical inactivity;
- alcohol abuse; and
What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes?
- always feels thirsty, and his/her mouth feels dry;
- feels tired always;
- urinates more frequently than normal, including at night;
- begins to lose weight;
- may not see clearly;
- has frequent itching around the genitals;
- has pins and needles (‘picotements’) in the legs and hands;
- has injuries and infections that are difficult to treat.
What are the complications of diabetes?
If diabetes is not properly controlled, it leads to severe complications of the systems of the body, some of which are:
- retinopathy (affection of the retina), causing visual impairment and blindness;
- neuropathy (affection of the nerves), leading to loss of sensation and injuries to the feet and sexual impotence in men;
- nephropathy (affection of the kidneys), leading to renal failure;
- premature obstruction of the arteries, leading to hypertension, heart attack, stroke and amputation of the leg.
How can diabetes be managed properly?
(i) take the medicine or insulin injection as recommended by your doctor;
(ii) avoid eating fatty/oily foods;
(iii) reduce the intake of sugar;
(iv) eat more vegetables, fruits and pulses;
(v) control your weight;
(vi) avoid alcoholic drinks or take them in moderation;
(vii) avoid smoking; and
(viii) perform daily physical activity.
(ix) examine your feet daily in order to treat injury if any to avoid infection;
(x) check your eyes once a year.
How can diabetes be prevented?
The adoption of a healthy lifestyle is essential to prevent diabetes as well as other non-communicable diseases. Preventive measures include the following:
- moderate consumption of fatty/oily foods;
- moderate intake of sugar;
- consumption of more vegetables, fruits and pulses;
- avoiding or moderate consumption of alcoholic drinks;
- avoiding smoking;
- physical activity for at least 30 minutes daily.”
Courtesy: Ministry of Health & Quality of Life, Mauritius.