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Act on diabetes now

Sunday, November 13 2011

World Diabetes Day will be celebrated tomorrow. In support of this cause, Sunday Newsday today presents the following feature by the Diabetes Association of Trinidad and Tobago (DATT) on the subject.

DIABETES is described as a global epidemic by the World Health Organization, with 220 million persons worldwide with the disease. Estimates in Trinidad and Tobago suggest there are as many as 175,000 persons with diabetes. In other words, it is a common condition affecting one in seven adults in the country. Trinidad and Tobago is rated in the first five in the world, percentage wise, with diabetes. Statistics reveal that diabetes as a cause of death ranks third after heart disease and cancer in Trinidad and Tobago.

The numbers alone show that diabetes is a serious condition. The cost of diabetes to Trinidad and Tobago is high — both in terms of human cost and economic costs — to the individual and his/her family, as well as to the Government.



What is diabetes?

Diabetes, or to give its full name, diabetes mellitus, is a condition that occurs as a result of problems with the production and/or action of insulin in the body.

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that enables cells to take in glucose (blood sugar) from the blood and use it for energy. When a person has diabetes, either their pancreas does not produce the insulin they need (Type 1 Diabetes), or their body cannot make effective use of the insulin they produce (Type 2 Diabetes).

Type 1 diabetes can affect people of any age, but is the most common type in children and young adults. The body’s immune system destroys pancreatic beta cells - the only cells in the body which make the hormone insulin needed for glucose regulation. Persons with Type 1 diabetes need injections of insulin to control the levels of glucose in their blood. It accounts for five to ten percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is most common in older people, but is increasingly occurring in younger ones too, particularly those who are overweight and inactive. Type 2 diabetes usually begins as insulin resistance, a disorder where cells do not use insulin properly. However, as the need for insulin rises, the pancreas may lose its ability to produce it. Persons with Type 2 diabetes do not always require insulin, since lifestyle modification such as diet control, weight loss and exercise can control the disease. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90-95 percent of all cases.



How do I know if I have diabetes?

The onset of Type 1 diabetes is usually sudden and dramatic, while the onset of Type 2 diabetes is gradual and therefore harder to detect. Some people with Type 2 diabetes are diagnosed many years after the onset of the condition, and as a result diabetes complications may already be present.



Diabetes can include symptoms such as:

* Frequent urination

* Abnormal thirst and a dry mouth

* Extreme tiredness/lack of energy

* Constant hunger

* Sudden weight loss

* Blurred vision

* Recurrent infections

If uncontrolled, diabetes can cause serious long-term complications. The most important are:

* Cardiovascular Diseases which affect the heart and blood vessels and may cause fatal complications such as coronary heart disease and stroke, a common cause of disability and death in persons with diabetes.

* Eye disease, which ultimately lead to blindness.

* Kidney damage, which may result in total kidney failure.

* Nerve damage, which, combined with blood circulation problems, may cause ulcers of the legs and feet and also gangrene, which in turn may lead to amputation.



Managing Diabetes: Self-Monitoring

Self-monitoring plays an important part in treating diabetes. It gives you essential information which you need to gain tight control of your diabetes, and thereby decrease short and long-term complications. It allows you to eat normally and enjoy a normal life. To achieve tight control, you need to check your blood glucose levels several times a day in order to balance your diet, exercise, medication and/or insulin injections accordingly to maintain a steady state in blood glucose readings. Target blood glucose level ranges between 80-140 mg/dL.

Clinical Studies have shown that more frequent self-monitoring can significantly decrease and slow the development of complications in person with Type 1 diabetes. Additionally, the risk of kidney damage, long-term diabetes complications and strokes by 33 percent in persons with Type 2 diabetes are significantly reduced in persons who regularly monitor their Blood Glucose at home.



World Diabetes Day

World Diabetes Day (WDD) is celebrated every year on November 14. The campaign is led by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and its member associations, and was created in 1991 by the IDF and the World Health Organization (WHO) in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat that diabetes now poses. WDD became an official United Nations Day in 2007 with the passage of United Nation Resolution 61/225. It engages millions of people worldwide in diabetes advocacy and awareness.

Diabetes Education and Prevention is the World Diabetes Day theme for the period 2009-2013. The campaign calls on all those responsible for diabetes care to understand diabetes and take control. For people with diabetes, this is a message about empowerment through education. For governments, it is a call to implement effective strategies and policies for the prevention and management of diabetes to safeguard the health of their citizens with and at risk of diabetes. For healthcare professionals, it is a call to improve knowledge so that evidence-based recommendations are put into practice. For the general public, it is a call to understand the serious impact of diabetes and know, where possible, how to avoid or delay diabetes and its complications. The key messages of the campaign are:

* Know the diabetes risks and know the warning signs

* Know how to respond to diabetes and who to turn to

* Know how to manage diabetes and take control



Diabetes Association of Trinidad and Tobago (DATT)

The DATT is a support group, a voluntary community service organisation that helps persons with diabetes to understand and control their condition and encourages personal responsibility for health and well being. Educating the public on diabetes and its associated diseases is one of the objectives of the Diabetes Association of Trinidad and Tobago. At the rate of increase in the incidence of diabetes, it is becoming difficult to find someone who does not have acquaintance with this condition. As a result, it is important to have knowledge of diabetes - its onset, management and treatment. The DATT has 24 branches nationwide.

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