November 14 is World Diabetes Day. The purpose of this day is to promote awareness along with the idea that every person suffering from diabetes, or any person at risk, deserves the best prevention, the best care and the best training available. Do you know enough about diabetes to try and prevent it if you can by utilizing the best possible resources?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that arises when the pancreas does not release enough insulin or when the body does not effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates the concentration of sugar in the blood. Hyperglycaemia is caused by diabetes and is actually an excessive concentration of sugar in the blood. In time, it provokes serious lesions to many of the body’s systems:
Eyes: Diabetes causes lesions to the small blood vessels in the retina (diabetic retinopathy), which can lead to blindness. After 15 years of illness, approximately 2% of persons with diabetes lose their sight and 10% suffer from severe visual impairment.
Nerves: Up to 50% of persons with diabetes suffer from nerve lesions (diabetic neuropathy) caused by diabetes. Common symptoms are tingling, pain, numbness or weakness in the hands and feet.
Blood flow: Diabetes increases the risk of foot ulcers serious enough to lead to amputation of the affected limb.
Kidneys: Diabetes is one of the leading causes of kidney failure, and between 10 and 20% of all persons with diabetes die from this serious complication.
Brain and heart: Diabetes increases the risk of suffering from heart disease and stroke and half of all persons with diabetes die of a cardiovascular disease or a stroke.
There are three types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is caused by insufficient insulin production from the pancreas. This is the type of diabetes that usually affects young people. It can be recognized by an excessive need to urinate (polyuria), excessive thirst (polydipsia), constant hunger, weight loss, a change in vision and extreme fatigue. These symptoms can appear very suddenly. Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented and can be swift and deadly without daily insulin injections.
Type 2 diabetes is caused by the ineffective use of insulin by the body or by a “lazy” pancreas. It represents 90% of all diabetes cases around the world and is largely due to excessive body weight and a lack of physical exercise. The symptoms can be the same as those of Type 1 diabetes but are usually less severe. Therefore, the disease is often diagnosed many years following its onset, when complications are already quite severe. With the epidemic of obesity among children, this type of diabetes, which used to affect adults, is now proliferous in children.
Gestational diabetes appears during pregnancy. It is systematically detected in pregnant women through prenatal screening and disappears after the birth of the child.
The burden of diabetes on the healthcare system is of colossal proportions. In Canada, the cost of diabetes is close to 9 billion dollars every year. The life expectancy of a person suffering from Type 1 diabetes decreases by fifteen years and by five to ten years for people suffering from Type 2 diabetes.
If we do not adopt immediate and urgent action, diabetes-related deaths will increase by more than 50% within the next ten years. Ergo, stressing the importance of prevention. Everyone can modify their lifestyle habits to try and avoid this disease. For example, to help prevent Type 2 diabetes and the complications it causes, it is recommended to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, do at least 30 minutes of physical exercise of regular to moderate-intensity almost every day and to adopt healthy eating habits.
For people suffering from diabetes, having and maintaining a good handle on their blood glucose levels and adopting good lifestyle habits (healthy diet, physical exercise, stopping smoking) can help delay the progression of the disease and prevent many complications.
Should you have any questions or concerns, your pharmacist will gladly help quell your worries. Your pharmacist is a knowledgeable and trustworthy professional who is always available to help you out.