Facts about diabetes

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“Diabetes is a disease that occurs when a person’s body does not produce insulin in the pancreas or it produces insufficient amounts necessary to facilitate the entry of glucose into the cells where it is converted to energy to fuel the metabolic processes in the body.”

In line with the World Diabetes Day celebration, Dr. Russel Atonson is sharing the following information about the world’s No. 3 killer disease.

According to World Health Organization, globally, an estimated 422 million adults were living with diabetes in 2014, compared to 108 million in 1980. The global prevalence of diabetes has nearly doubled since 1980, rising from 4.7 percent to 8.5 percent in the adult population. This reflects an increase in associated risk factors such as being overweight or obese. Over the past decade, diabetes prevalence has risen faster in low and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.


Many people are not aware that they have diabetes. Most of them come to see the doctor because of non-healing, painless, foul smelling oozing ulcers of the foot, especially the big toe.

Some consult the doctor because of progressive loss of sight or increasing difficulty to withstand lights or the sun. Others are simply wondering why they urinate profusely and very frequently and are thirsty in spite of drinking lots of water.

In other words, people do not readily suspect they have diabetes until they experience obvious signs.

As of 2013, Philippines statistics show that 6 million Filipinos are affected by diabetes, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the country. In 2015, about 3.2 million of the total number of those affected suffer from diabetes mellitus type 2.

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when a person’s body does not produce insulin in the pancreas or it produces insufficient amounts necessary to facilitate the entry of glucose into the cells where it is converted to energy to fuel the metabolic processes in the body.

Diabetes mellitus Type 1, or juvenile diabetes, is the result of total inability of the Islet of Langerhans in the pancreas to produce insulin commonly as a result of an auto-immune process in the body. It is characterized by frequent, profuse urination, increased thirst and feeling of hunger, sudden weight loss and chronic fatigue.

The condition can be fatal if not treated promptly with Insulin by injection or by nasal spray (still experimental and unavailable commercially).

Diabetes mellitus Type 2 is more common as the result of lack of Insulin produced by the body or the body’s inability to utilize Insulin. The symptoms include chronic fatigue and sleepiness; frequent urinary infections in women; slow-healing wounds; progressive blurring of vision to profound sensitivity to light; sexual dysfunction; dry, itchy skin; numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, abnormal sensation of the skin, like the feeling of crawling ants or wetness; increased hunger; increased thirst and profuse, frequent urination.

Gestational diabetes is usually a temporary condition during pregnancy,  especially in obese, pregnant women. The symptoms are very similar to Type 2 diabetes and usually disappears after delivery. The condition affects the baby and can produce overweight babies and ARDS, or adult respiratory di stress syndrome.

Untreated and uncontrolled diabetes can result in blurring of vision to blindness in three to five years and  the process is difficult to stop or reverse. 

Non-healing wounds of the feet  may progress to gangrene and may need amputation of the affected limb. Heart attacks and strokes may lead to premature death. Kidney failure may require expensive and long- term dialysis.

Diabetes can lead to frequent infections in women and sexual dysfunction on both sexes, including erectile dysfunction in men. Dental problems are also common. If media can be a powerful agent of change, it can be an equally powerful agent of oppression. It can reinforce stereotyped images of women and their roles in society.

While specific cure of Diabetes is still beyond the horizon, control of the progression of the disease is of prime importance. Periodic check up with the doctor and strict adherence to treatment protocols will help reduce your risk of developing complications and contribute to a better quality of life.

Self and laboratory  monitoring of the blood sugar levels and blood pressure which should be logged will help the doctor in assessing control and recommend mitigating procedures. It is also important to check the feet daily for any cuts or other injuries that are not noticed readily due to decreased sensitivity to pain.

A light foot massage each night will help promote circulation and avoid foot complications.  Weight reduction to conform to your appropriate Basal Metabolic Index, or BMI, sticking to a diet of fruits and vegetables and food rich in fiber is also recommended.

Regular exercise and stopping cigarette smoking and taking alcoholic drinks will be a great help. Total avoidance of carbohydrates, like rice,  and other natural sugars are not recommended as it will lead to weakness and lack of energy which makes one vulnerable to other diseases and also aggravate the diabetic state.

A word of caution: When you are taking diabetes medicine over the prescribed dose, eating at the wrong time, skipping meals and snacks, exercising more than usual or doing heavy work and you experience any of the following symptoms– feeling unsteady, rapid heart beat, cold sweats, blurring of vision or headaches, feeling unusually tired, numbness or tingling in your mouth or lips, feeling hungry, fainting or loss of consciousness, crabby or confused– you may be having hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. If this happens,  you may take any of the following by mouth:

– Three glucose tablets

– One-half cup of sweetened juice

– One-half cup of sweetened soda

– One tablespoon of sugar or small hard candies

Do not force unconscious patients to swallow anything by mouth. It is best to let people around you know you are diabetic as the symptoms can also be mistaken for stroke, or hypopotassemia, which requires a different treatment and intervention may be delayed. – NWI