Diabetes affects almost four million South Africans, but many more are undiagnosed, which is why we need to be aware of the symptoms of diabetes…

“Diabetes can be effectively managed when caught early,” says Jackie Maimin, the CEO of the Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA), “However, when left untreated, it can lead to potential complications that include heart disease, stroke, kidney damage, and nerve damage.”

What’s more, the United Nations health agency estimates that 3,4 million people die of diabetes every year.

1 in 2 diabetics are undiagnosed

Last year, the International Diabetic Federation reported that one in two people with diabetes in South Africa is undiagnosed.

This is a shocking statistic that Bridget McNulty, editor of Sweet Life, diabetic lifestyle magazine and online community, is passionate about changing.

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“I was diagnosed extremely late – three days away from a diabetic coma – because I didn’t know the symptoms of diabetes,” says McNulty.

She believes that if more people know and shared the five systems of diabetes, that terrifying statistic could change.

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The five symptoms of diabetes

  • Extreme hunger
  • Extreme thirst
  • Needing to urinate a lot
  • Exhaustion
  • Blurry vision

Below is an image, courtesy of Sweet Life, that you can save, post, share, pin or post to Instagram to help raise awareness.

Inexpensive and free diabetes screening

If you have any of five symptoms of diabetes, you should get tested.

Tests are inexpensive (as little as R30 at some clinics and pharmacies) and for the month of November (Diabetes Awareness Month), the ICPA are offering free diabetes risk assessment and screening at selected pharmacy clinics across the country.

I was diagnosed extremely late – three days away from a diabetic coma – because I didn’t know the symptoms of diabetes – Bridget McNulty, editor of Sweet Life

The ICPA diabetes risk assessment tool has been designed to predict the chances of a person developing diabetes in the next 10 years. It features a series of targeted questions and data analyses that then indicates whether a person should go on for further testing and if they need counselling on lifestyle changes to avoid developing diabetes.

“The results of the diabetes screening and random blood glucose test reading will indicate to the pharmacist if that person needs to undergo further, more in-depth testing through a fasting blood test. Should the results from this show that a person has diabetes the pharmacist will then refer them on to their GP for further assessment and management,” says Maimin.

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Helping diabetics get the disease under control

During November, the ICPA is also driving a campaign – Treat2Target – to assist diabetics who are already on treatment but who are not reaching their target glucose levels.

“Many diagnosed diabetics, although on treatment, are uncontrolled and therefore still at risk of the effects of this dangerous disease,” says Maimin. “We aim to help these people to optimise their treatment and their lifestyle choices so that their blood glucose levels are in check. This is an awareness campaign – a concentrated effort by pharmacists to be more involved with diabetic patients on their chronic illness journey.”

For more information about free diabetes screening and the Treat2Target initiative, contact the ICPA on (021) 671 4473.

Sources: Independent Community Pharmacy Association & Sweet Life

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