High diabetes risk
The Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA) ran a recent screening programme on diabetes and found that one in three of the participants tested have a high risk for developing diabetes over the next 10 years.
These alarming findings were drawn from the initial 10 000 screenings that have been captured and are part of a continuing drive by the ICPA to assist the National Department of Health with a snapshot on South Africa’s diabetes statistics.
Everyone should be tested for diabetes
Since November is Diabetes Awareness Month, now is the time to get screened!
“Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing the complications associated with this illness. In order to encourage people to get tested for diabetes, certain independent community pharmacies around the country will be offering free screening for this highly prevalent disease,” says Mark Payne, CEO of the ICPA
Diabetics should be screened regularly
According to the ICPA, for those who have already been diagnosed with diabetes it is also important to have regular screenings to measure your levels of glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c).
“By measuring glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c), doctors are able to get an overall picture of what our average blood sugar levels have been over a period of weeks and months – and for people with diabetes this is important as the higher the HbA1c, the greater the risk of developing diabetes-related complications.”
The ICPA provides some important diabetes facts…
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body can’t use the insulin it produces effectively. Insulin acts like a key which lets glucose pass from the blood stream into the cells to produce energy.
Not being able to produce insulin or use it effectively leads to raised glucose levels in the blood (known as hyperglycemia). Long-term, these high glucose levels are associated with damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues.
Different types of diabetes
“There are different types of diabetes,” says the ICPA. “The most common form [mostly in adults] is type-2, whilst type-1 diabetes is more common in children. Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that can occur during pregnancy.”
Signs and symptoms of diabetes
According to the ICPA, the following symptoms of diabetes are typical. However, some people with type-2 diabetes have symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed.
- Urinating often
- Feeling very thirsty
- Feeling very hungry – even though you are eating enough
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
- Weight loss – even though you are eating more (type-1)
- Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type-2)
Subtle signs of diabetes
The ICPA warns that not every case of type-2 diabetes presents with the obvious symptoms as listed above and that people must also look out for these other subtle signs that something may be amiss with your blood sugar:
Skin changes – Dark, velvety patches in the folds of the skin, usually on the back of the neck, elbows, or knuckles, are often an early warning sign of too-high blood sugar levels, as high insulin levels promote the growth of skin cells, and melanin, a pigment in these cells, makes the patches dark.
Improved vision – Blurry vision is a diabetes symptom. But, in fact, any vision changes, whether for better or worse, can also be a symptom. The reason for this is that diabetes causes fluid levels in the body to shift around, including inside your eyes, which can lead to erratic eyesight.
If left untreated, diabetes can ultimately lead to vision deterioration and even vision loss from diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and eye strokes. The ICPA advises that in addition to being screened for diabetes, if you have already been diagnosed with this common illness you must go for regular eye examinations.
Itchiness – Diabetes impairs blood circulation, which can lead to dryness and itchiness.
Hearing loss – The ICPA advises that one study by the National Institute of Health suggested that hearing loss could be an early warning sign of diabetes, and the researchers believe that diabetes damages the blood vessels and nerves of the inner ear, leading to sub-par hearing.
Snoring – “Statistics have shown that about half of type-2 diabetics snore. The connection isn’t completely understood, but it seems that people who snore tend to release stress hormones during sleep, which can raise blood sugar levels,” says the ICPA.
Treatment for diabetes
According to the ICPA, successful medical treatment makes all the difference to long-term health, and achieving balanced diabetes treatment can be the key to living with both type-1 and type-2 diabetes.
“Treatment varies for each individual, not simply based on the type of diabetes that they have. The aim of [medical] diabetes treatment is to keep blood glucose levels as near to normal as possible.”
Treatment for type-1 diabetes
Medical treatment for type-1 diabetes is a daily task, as lack of insulin production by the pancreas makes type-1 diabetes particularly difficult to control. Treatment requires a strict regimen that typically includes a carefully calculated diet, planned physical activity, multiple daily insulin injections and home blood glucose testing a number of times per day.
Treatment for type-2 diabetes
Treatment for type-2 diabetes usually includes diet control, exercise, home blood glucose testing, and in some cases, medication and/or insulin. Approximately 40% of people with type-2 diabetes require insulin injections.
Additional information about diabetes:
- Diabetes is a long-term condition that causes high blood sugar levels.
- In 2013 it was estimated that over 382 million people throughout the world had diabetes
- Type-1 diabetes – the body does not produce insulin. Approximately 10% of all diabetes cases are type-1.
- Type-2 diabetes – the body does not produce enough insulin for proper function. Approximately 90% of all cases of diabetes worldwide are of this type.
- Gestational diabetes – this type affects females during pregnancy.
- The most common diabetes symptoms include frequent urination, intense thirst and hunger, weight gain, unusual weight loss, fatigue, cuts and bruises that do not heal, male sexual dysfunction, numbness and tingling in hands and feet.
- If you have type-1 and follow a healthy eating plan, do adequate exercise and take insulin, you can lead a normal life.
- Type-2 patients need to eat healthily, be physically active, and test their blood glucose. They may also need to take oral medication, and/or insulin to control blood glucose levels.
- As the risk of cardiovascular disease is much higher for a diabetic, it is crucial that blood pressure and cholesterol levels are monitored regularly.
- As smoking might have a serious effect on cardiovascular health, diabetics should stop smoking.
While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.