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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The twinning disease

Yes, You have read that the title right! Hypertension was the topic of discussion in my previous article and here, I shall discuss the twin of hypertension, for these two diseases are experts at complicating one another and mostly go hand in hand.

According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) update of 2020, The Gambia is one of the 48 countries of the IDF African region. 463 million people have diabetes worldwide and more than 19 million people in the African Region. This number is expected to escalate to 47 million by 2045. In another published data by the WHO in 2018, Diabetes Mellitus deaths in The Gambia reached 202, or 1.45%, of total deaths.

For a country as small as The Gambia, these figures are definitely significant; and the fight against Diabetes falls on the shoulders of everyone. As the famous saying goes, the life you save might be your own.

What exactly is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either due to the pancreas not producing enough insulin or the body not being able to effectively use the insulin being produced by the pancreas. Insulin is a hormone responsible for the regulation of blood sugar within the body. Uncontrolled diabetes therefore leads to increased blood sugar medically referred to as hyperglycemia. This leads to serious complications and damages especially to the blood vessels and nerves. There are different kinds of diabetes and a brief explanation of each is as follows:

Type 1 Diabetes: This particular type is also known as juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes. It occurs as a result of deficient insulin production thus requiring daily insulin administration. The exact cause of Type 1 diabetes is not known. However, it is believed that one’s immune system- which is tasked with fighting harmful viruses and bacteria- attacks and destroys the cells of the pancreas responsible for insulin production. There are no known preventive measures for Type 1 diabetes and its onset is usually during childhood or adolescence but can happen at any age.

Type 2 Diabetes: Also known as non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset diabetes, this type is due to the body not being able to utilize insulin effectively despite its production by the pancreas. It is the most common type of diabetes and is mostly as a result of obesity or lack of physical activity. Type-2 diabetes is normally associated with older people of about 40 years and more but recently, it is equally affecting people of younger ages.

Gestational Diabetes: Just as its name implies, it is found in women during pregnancy as the body becomes less sensitive than normal to insulin during this period. It is not all women that suffer from gestational diabetes and even for those who do; it is normally resolved after giving birth. Women with this diabetes are at risk of developing complications during pregnancy and delivery. Both they and their children are also at risk of developing type-2 diabetes thus the need for prenatal screenings and early diagnoses.

Symptoms of diabetes

Specific types of diabetes might have specific symptoms, however, there are typical symptoms mostly manifested by all types. These are:

∑          Urinating often

∑          Feeling very thirsty mose often than normal

∑          Feeling hungry regardless of eating

∑          Tiredness or fatigue

∑          Blurry vision

∑          Wounds that heal slowly than normal

∑          Weight loss despite eating (commonly associated with type-1)

∑          Pain, tingling, or numbness in the hands/feet (commonly associated with type-2)

It is important to note that some people with diabetes have either mild symptoms that are barely noticed or manifest no symptoms at all. This, coupled with specific types having certain symptoms, is where consulting your health facility comes in. 

Who is at risk of developing diabetes?

Again, the risk factors for diabetes vary depending on the type and to make life easier, I shall enumerate them as such.

Type 1 Diabetes: The main risk factors associated with type-1 diabetes are family history and age. Just as earlier stated, it is more likely to develop during childhood and adolescence than adults.

Type 2 Diabetes: This particular type has quite a number of risk factors.

These include having pre-diabetes (blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be termed diabetic- roughly at the borderline), being overweight, having 40 years of age or more, physical inactivity, gestational diabetes, and having a family history of diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes: People more prone to gestational diabetes are those with a history of it during a previous pregnancy, giving birth to a child that weighs 4kg and more, being overweight, age range of more than 25 years, and again, a family history of gestational diabetes.

Complications of diabetes

Over time, high blood glucose levels can cause several complications including the following:

∑          High blood pressure: Believe it, hypertension and diabetes are twins. Most often than not, where one goes, the other devises a way to follow. Known diabetics therefore have increased risks of developing high blood pressure.

∑          Foot problems: Due to damage to the nerves and reduced blood flow to the feet. How can I not highlight amputations? Diabetes is a major cause of feet amputations as a result of diabetic foot. If you haven’t seen anyone who is a victim of this, then you probably are not paying attention.

∑          Skin Conditions: Diabetic patients are more likely to suffer infections including skin infections and equally have sores that heal very slowly.

∑          Eye diseases: Due to fluid level changes, tissue swellings, and damage to blood vessels in the eyes.

∑          Kidney Diseases: As a result of damage to the blood vessels in the kidneys. Many known diabetics eventually develop hypertension which can equally damage the kidneys.

∑          Heart Diseases: People with diabetes could develop heart diseases especially stroke due to damage of the blood vessels and nerves that control the heart.

There is a need to prevent diabetes! How?

When I said diabetes and hypertension are twins, I wasn’t joking at all. It is not wrong to say diabetes is equally associated with our lifestyles (except for type-1 which is more common in children who are probably born with it). The preventive measures therefore include but are not limited to the following:

∑          Reducing Sugar and refined carbohydrates in one’s diet as they increase blood sugar and insulin levels which could cause diabetes in due time.

∑          Be physically active! Sedentary lifestyle is definitely not the life so be sure to exercise as much as possible. Even regular walks are not to be underrated.

∑          Have you drunk enough water yet? Please, get yourself a glass and drink up. Let water be your go-to beverage in place of sugary beverages.

∑          Being overweight is certainly not a sign of enjoyment! It’s far from that so do yourself a favor, and control your weight.

∑          Dear smokers, be kind enough to yourself to stop smoking. It doesn’t help any situation,  quitting  has actually shown to reduce the risk of diabetes over time.

The bottom line is simple. Eat healthy, and adopt a healthy lifestyles that promotes healthy blood sugar. Be sure to enjoy as long as you drag good health along!

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