N Touch
Friday 13 December 2019
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Editorial

Get serious about diabetes

Photo courtesy Pixabay
Photo courtesy Pixabay

In the last two decades, the global estimate of adults living with diabetes has doubled. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), in 2000 the number affected was 151 million. Today, about one in ten adults, or 463 million people, live with the disease. There’s an urgent need to fight diabetes.

Yesterday’s commemoration of World Diabetes Day brought into focus once more the continued challenges posed by the disease. The IDF estimates that there will be 578 million adults with diabetes by 2030, and 700 million by 2045.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces. There are three main types and the disease is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and lower limb amputation.

The IDF estimates 12 per cent of Trinidad and Tobago’s adult population, or about 117,400 people, have this disease. In 2010, diabetes was the cause of 450 non-traumatic lower limb amputations. Earlier this year it was estimated that about 400 to 500 children in this country have type 1 diabetes.

The increasing incidence of diabetes worldwide has been attributed to a complex interplay of socio-economic, demographic, environmental and genetic factors. There’s been an upsurge in type 2 diabetes, the most common type which involves resistance to insulin. The situation is worsened by rising levels of obesity, unhealthy diets and widespread physical inactivity.

The Ministry of Health has been engaging in public awareness campaigns, asking people to make simple changes to their lives in order to combat the disease. These efforts must be continued and sustained given the costs of treating diabetes and the loss of productivity that occurs.

It’s estimated that about ten per cent of global health expenditure is spent on diabetes. Despite this, four million adults still die every year. Unfortunately, one in two people with diabetes are undiagnosed. The impact of diabetes has often been overlooked. Families can be affected by the disease due to hereditary factors, but they also can play a bigger role in diagnosing the disease.

Families should seek to learn more about the warning signs and find out their risk. Research conducted by the IDF in 2018 discovered parents are struggling to spot this serious life-long condition in their own children. An alarming four in five parents have trouble recognising the warning signs and one in three wouldn’t spot them at all.

These findings underline the need for knowledge and awareness to help people pinpoint warning signs sooner. Earlier diagnosis can lead to better management and improve treatment options substantially.

Not only should we get more information and get active, but we need to take steps to protect families, particularly those for whom risk factors are high.

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