HomeEditorial CommentDiabetes mellitus: A condition to surely know about!

Diabetes mellitus: A condition to surely know about!

health talk with Dr Johannes Marisa

Diabetes mellitus is one disease that we occasionally come across in our practice.

It is one of the diseases which can give a lot of complications if not diagnosed early.

Globally, World Health Organisation estimates that about 422 million adults were living with diabetes in 2016.

It was estimated that in the same year, about 1,6 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes, making the disease the seventh leading cause of deaths in the same year.

According to the Zimbabwe International Diabetes Federation, there were 99 400 cases of diabetes in Zimbabwe in 2017. So many people succumb to this condition every year, but it is usually due to complications which could have arisen.

What is diabetes mellitus

This is a type of disease that affects how your body uses blood sugar or glucose.

The glucose is vital to your health because it is an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. It is also your brain’s main source of fuel.

Diabetes mellitus is thus in two forms, Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. While type 1 usually affects the juveniles usually those less than 35 years, type 2 usually affects those above 30 years thus the other name, Maturity Onset Diabetes Mellitus (MODM).

Type 1 can also be called Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus while type 2 can be called Non-Insulin Diabetes Mellitus as well. Pregnant mothers should be wary of gestational diabetes that comes during pregnancy

Symptoms of diabetes

A lot of patients ignore the symptoms of diabetes only to present lately when complications have already appeared. However, there are some people, especially
with Type 2 Diabetes, who may not experience symptoms initially. In Type 1, symptoms tend to come on quickly. Some include:

  • Polydipsia (Increased thirst)
  • Polyuria (Frequent urination)
  • Polyphagia (Extreme hunger)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained paraesthesia and numbness
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigability
  • Slow-healing sores

Risk factors

The following are factors that should force you to remain alert about diabetes.

Family history: One’ s risk increases if a parent or sibling has diabetes. This is quite common in cases of Type 2 Diabetes.

Weight: The fattier tissue one has, the more resistant your cells become to insulin, hence high levels of sugars.
Inactivity: The less active one is, the greater the risk. Physical activity helps one to control your weight, uses glucose as energy and make cells more
sensitive to insulin.

Race: Although it is unclear why, people of certain races, including black people, Hispanics, American Indians and Asian-Americans, are at higher risk

Gestational diabetes: If you developed gestational diabetes when you were pregnant, your risk of developing prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes later increases. If
you gave birth to a baby weighing more than 4kg, you stand very high chances of Type 2 Diabetes.

Abnormal Cholesterol and Triglyceride levels: People with high levels of triglycerides have an increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

Complications of diabetes mellitus

Diabetes complications may be disabling or even life-threatening. The following are some of them:

  • Kidney damage may arise from damage to the glomeruli with resultant failure to pass urine or with very little urine formation which may require dialysis or
    even kidney transplant. It is wise that patients undergo Kidney Function Tests at least once a year. This is a simple blood check done in both public and
    private laboratories.
  • Eye damage: Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina, potentially leading to blindness. Cataracts and high intraocular pressure may arise as well.
    Please visit your eye specialist at least once a year
  • lNerve damage: This can result in tingling, numbness, burning or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upward.
    Foot damage: Nerve damage in the feet or poor blood flow to the feet increases the risk of various foot complications. Diabetic feet can result in toe, foot or leg amputation. Avoid tight shoes which can give rise to ulcers.
  • Diagnosis of diabetes mellitus
  • With the availability of simple testing machines, diabetes can be tested easily. It is thus important for a family to have one such machine, the Glucometer. It needs a simple prick where very little blood is put on the glucostrip and result comes within six seconds. Get yourself your Glucometer machine. It costs around US$40 and this can save lives. A random blood sugar level of higher than 11.1 mmol/L suggests diabetes regardless of when one last ate. A Fasting sugar of greater than 7mmol/L may point to diabetes.

Many people with diabetes get into problems of collapse which usually comes because of too low sugar, a condition called Hypoglycaemia. This can come because of overdosing self, fasting, doing excessive exercises, infections. Please if a d iabetic starts to shiver or is tremulous, sweating with generalised weakness, be wary about low sugar and give sugary things. Always move around with sweets or glucose in the bag.

Dr Johannes Marisa can be reached at doctormarisa@gmail.com.

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