Diabetes at all time high in SA

Johannesburg – The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has estimated that 96 000 people would have died by the end of this year due to diabetes.

The federation also revealed their most recent statistics, taken from their upcoming 10th edition of the IDF Diabetes Atlas, showed that that four million South Africans live with diabetes – the highest in Africa while 16 million citizens have pre-diabetes – and many remain undiagnosed.

World Diabetes Day (WDD) was marked on 14 November and 2021 to 2023 global campaign theme is “Access to Diabetes Care – If Not Now, When?”

Professor Ayesha Motala, Head Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal said when diabetes is undetected or inadequately treated, there’s a risk of serious and life-threatening complications, such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and lower-limb amputation.

“It respects neither socioeconomic status nor national boundaries. Much can be done to reduce the impact of diabetes. We have evidence that type 2 diabetes can often be prevented with early diagnosis and access to appropriate care. Importantly we must ensure that every person with diabetes has uninterrupted access to the quality care they need in their communities,” said Motala.

Cape Town-based endocrinologist, Dr. Zane Stevens said it’s a disease that is increasing mostly because of unhealthy eating patterns and lack of exercise.

“We recommend a diet low in saturated fat and high in fibre. It should include grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as good fats such as olive oil, flaxseed, and walnuts. It’s important to avoid processed foods. Because Type 2 diabetes emerges silently, you should see a doctor if you are at risk.

“If treatment is prescribed in addition to lifestyle and dietary measures, the secret to it being effective is to take it properly. The three most common symptoms of diabetes are extreme thirst, blurred vision. and extreme fatigue,” said Stevens.

Janine Bérichon, a registered nurse and advanced wound care representative says wounds are extremely common and dangerous for diabetics, both for adults and children, as it sometimes leads to amputation.

She said certain bacterial infections can cause gangrene or when the underlying tissues are starved of oxygen and blood supply this can lead to tissue death and amputation would then be necessary to save a person’s life.

“This is usually seen in the extremities like the toes and fingers which are furthest away from the heart. I was extremely sad to treat a very wealthy person who ended up having a bilateral above-knee amputation where following the amputation the incision took very long to heal because the patient’s condition was so advanced.

The impact of being wheelchair-bound and being totally dependent on family members for all needs is so very sad. Again it comes down to lifestyle choices. The amputation could have been totally prevented had this person not smoked, or drank a bottle of wine and had visited the multidisciplinary health care team for the best treatment and had taken advice.

The best way to clean a wound in clinical practice is with sterile warm saline solution, sterile gauze not cotton wool swabs as the cotton wool has fibres that may end up staying behind in the wound and the wound sees this as a foreign body that will in turn delay wound healing. Your health care practitioner will advise you accordingly.

She explained that some diabetics may injure their feet without knowing, as their ability to feel the sensation of pain, is poor because of nerve damage and poor circulation.

“We remind diabetics not to walk without wearing properly fitted shoes. Diabetic wounds take a long to heal due to a poor immune response,  persistent inflammation, uncontrolled high blood sugar levels, and or a poor blood supply. If you smoke, have high cholesterol, suffer from obesity this will impact the blood and oxygen supply to heal a wound”.

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