Diabetes is a disorder where the body battles to process sugar and the levels of sugar in the blood stream are too high. The fasting sugar level in the blood is above 7; and a random sugar at any time is above 11.
Diabetes comes in several forms:
- Type 1 – The pancreas produces little or no insulin. Its commonly found in younger people and always needs insulin.
- Type 2 – The body tissues don’t utilise the insulin properly. This tends to occur in an older age group however with the increase in obesity, we are seeing it at younger ages, even in children. This can be managed with medication but may need insulin as well.
- Gestational – this occurs during pregnancy only and puts you at risk of developing diabetes at a later stage in your life.
- Insulin resistance – Lastly the blood sugar levels are normal but the Insulin levels are above normal, which puts you at risk of Diabetes – As the levels of insulin start to rise, it can in time progress to diabetes
How common is Diabetes?
Is South Africa 3.5 million people have diabetes – 6% of the population, but there are many more who have not yet been diagnosed.
How can I tell if I have it?
Some of the things you may notice is – nothing at all! This is why its so important to do annual wellness checks.
As it progresses you may notice an increased thirst and an increase in passing water. Feeling tired, losing weight without trying and losing muscle mass are all part of the symptoms. You may also notice an increase in thrush infections or that wounds are taking longer to heal. You may also have a slightly blurry vision.
What will put me at risk?
With diabetes it can run in families so it is important to check if any relatives have been diagnosed with it. If you had diabetes in pregnancy you have an increased risk of developing it. High sugar diets and obesity can also put you at risk.
If you have a medical condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome you may be at risk of having higher insulin levels.
Why is it so important to treat it?
Untreated it can cause all those unpleasant symptoms listed above, but more importantly it can lead to kidney impairment, visual impairment and it can affect the nerves causing pain and numbness. Diabetes increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes, and in advanced cases can lead to amputations.
What can I do?
First of all assess if you have anything that would put you at risk of having diabetes. Then the best way to check for it is to do a blood sugar and possibly insulin level test. This should be at least annually but more often if you are at risk.
As with most things prevention is always better than cure so it is imperative that you reduce and ideally stop any sugar in your diet, and exercise and weight loss are also a vital part of helping metabolise sugar and reduce your chances of developing diabetes.
We have a wonderful dietician Melissa who is able to go through your diet with you and provide you with healthy alternatives and advice.
If you have any concerns, then please make an appointment to see your Dr. Once detected diabetes can be well managed with a combinations of lifestyle modifications and medications, and it doesn’t necessarily lead to any of the potential complications mentioned.
Contributor: Dr Susan Ford – FEMINA HEALTH