Would you know if you had diabetes?

There are an estimated one million people in Sri Lanka who have diabetes but don’t know it.

Don’t be one of them Know the risk factors

Diabetes is a bad news / good news / better news disease. The bad news is that diabetes is incurable medical science has yet to find a cure for one of the worlds most common illnesses. The good news is that diabetes is treatable. With proper medical treatment and a great deal of self-management, most people with diabetes can live normal-length lives with little or no restriction on their lift styles. The better news is that in the last few years, some very important new treatment modalities have come on the market to help make diabetes treatment even better.

What Is diabetes?

Diabetes is a malfunction in the body’s ability to convert carbohydrates - sweet and starchy foods into energy to power the body.

The medical name for this is diabetes mellitus, meaning, “honey sweet diabetes.”

As you might gather from such a name, diabetes is characterized by an abnormally high and persisted concentration of sugar in the bloodstream.

How high?

Blood-glucose levels vary during the course of the day. In normal adults, blood-glucose levels range between 60 and 100 milligrams per deciliter designated as mg/dl - of blood plasma when a person is fasting. By fasting, the medical profession means that the person hasn’t eaten for three or more hours (before breakfast for example. When listing blood sugar is over between 110 mg/dl doctors become concerned. In short your blood-sugar levels are too high.

So what’s wrong with high blood sugar?

As sugar builds in the bloodstream, the kidneys try to pump it out. To eliminate the sugar, the kidneys must dissolve it. The more sugar there is to be eliminated, the more urine that must be passed. You can see how this situation quickly leads to frequent urination, increased thirst and dehydration-three of the symptoms of diabetes. Although the kidneys effectively keep the body from becoming overrun with sugar, working double time wears out the kidneys sooner than normal. Over a lifetime, such overwork eventually brings on kidney failure. But that’s not the only problem with high blood sugar.

So you’re saying that diabetes can be life threatening?

Definitely. The very nature of the disease puts the sufferer at risk for serious complications. Some experts believe diabetes is now the nation’s third or fourth leading cause of death.

What can happen if diabetes goes unchecked ?

Diabetes hastens wear and tear on many crucial body functions. In particular, it attacks:

The circulatory system.

Diabetes leads to coronary heart disease, stroke and circulation problems in the hands and feet. These conditions are two to four times more common with people diabetes, and they account for most of their hospitalizations. Heart attacks, hardening of the arteries, strokes, poor circulation in the feet amputations-these are common examples of diabetes damage.

The kidneys.

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.

The eyes.

Diabetes eye disease, of diabetic retinopathy, is the major cause of new vision loss in people 20 to 74 years old.

The nervous system.

Nerve cells may be disturbed or damaged, causing severe pain or loss of feeling a condition known as neuropathy.

Diabetes must be treated seriously. People affected with diabetes generally require lifelong medical care to control the disease. In nearly all situation, they require at a minimum routine medical treatment-including daily self care. Left unchecked, diabetes shortens life. It is not a condition that goes away

What can be done about it?

Quite simple, you must learn to control your diabetes. Don’t let it control you! Many people with diabetes have taken personal responsibility for managing their disease and, as a result, they live normal, productive lives. If any disorder can be called a lifestyle disease, diabetes comes as close as any. Just by controlling blood sugar, the severity of diabetic complications can be prevented. So, the most obvious step is to get blood-sugar levels down to normal. For some people, that means taking insulin; for others it means losing weight; do some, it means both. For all people with diabetes, it means paying particular attention to diet and exercise, what we mean by a lifestyle change.

All of the experts in the field recount the importance of sound health habits that can help control diabetes and, in some cases, prevent it.

But whatever their lifestyles, the very first steps for all people with diabetes are to find out that they have the disease and to realize that they’re not alone.

How many people have diabetes?

In the world, probably over 100 million. In Sri Lanka estimated 2 million people are affected by the disease and that includes people of all ages, from children to the elderly. The number increases yearly.

5% percent of Sri Lankans have been diagnosed with diabetes and an equal amount have the disease but haven’t been diagnosed yet.

You mean some people have diabetes and don’t know it?

Approximately 1 million people, according to 1995 statistics.

How can that be?

Scientists estimate that the onset of the disease can be anywhere form 4 to 12 years. That means someone, may have diabetes 5,8, even 10 years before its diagnosed, depending upon the kind of diabetes that person has. Unfortunately, in that time the condition can damage the body.

Many people only find out about their diabetes once they’re having trouble with their eyes, nerves, kidneys, blood vessels or heart.

Diabetes-the risk factors

q Diabetes and age. The vast majority of people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes. This type usually occurs in people over the age of 40. The older you are, the greater your risk of diabetes.

q Diabetes runs in families. research has shown that people are more at risk if there is a history of diabetes in close family members. The closer the relative, the greater your risk of diabetes.

q Obesity is a factor in diabetes. Over 80% of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight. The more overweight you are, the greater your risk of diabetes.

q Diabetes and pregnancy. Some women when they are pregnant develop a temporary type of diabetes called ’Gestational Diabetes’. Having this or giving a large baby (4kg / 8½ lb or greater) can increase a woman’s risk of going on to develop Type 2 diabetes.

q Diabetes - the symptoms The symptoms of diabetes will usually be very obvious in younger people, but may not be obvious or not appear in older people.

q Increased thirst

q Passing urine all the time – especially at night

q Extreme tiredness

q Weight loss

q Genital itching or regular episodes of thrush

q Blurred vision

Diabetes is a serious and dangerous condition. But with knowledge and information coupled with treatment by qualified medical practitioners and good self-care it can be controlled.

Do yourself a favour. Make sure you know about diabetes and who’s at risk just in case it’s you. If you are at risk of having diabetes, it is vital you take steps now.

Have your self tested for diabetes?

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