Diabetes, a pandemic out of control!

Diabetes, a pandemic out of control!

Diabetes, a pandemic out of control!

by Dr L Sauermann, MBChB, Diploma in Diabetes

More than 420 million people globally have diabetes and this figure will be rising to a projected, alarming figure of 642 million people by 2040.

This global pandemic will place a huge burden not only on the individual with diabetes, but also on society with huge economic implications. 

This necessitates a strategy for the effective prevention, management and treatment of diabetes. Treatment is aimed to achieve patient-centered goals with glucose-lowering therapy and with lifestyle modification as a vital component.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that develops when insulin-producing cells in the pancreas do not produce sufficient insulin or when there is resistance to the insulin produced. Carbohydrate foods that we eat, are broken down to glucose and passed from the blood stream into the cells for energy. 

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that “unlocks” the cells in the body for the glucose to be transported into the cell to be used as “fuel”. Ineffective insulin production or resistance to insulin leads to increased blood glucose that causes long-term damage to organs and tissues of the body.

Risk factors

Risk factors include:

Family history 


Unhealthy diet

Physical inactivity


Previous diabetes in pregnancy

Impaired glucose tolerance (higher than normal blood glucose but below     diabetes thresholds)

Increasing age 

The signs and symptoms

Common symptoms include: 

Frequent urination especially at night

Blurred vision

Excessive thirst

Feeling very tired

Unexplained weight loss

Frequent episodes of thrush

Slowly healing cuts or wound 

Complications of diabetes

Consistent elevated blood glucose may affect the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. Diabetes is a major cause of heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and amputations of the lower limbs. It is therefore important to manage glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels to near normal, to prevent or delay complications.

Management of diabetes

A patient-centered approach is essential in the management of diabetes with specific goals aimed at patient characteristics. More stringent glucose control may be applicable for newly diagnosed patients without complications and a long life expectancy.

A simpler strategy may be used in patients with long-standing diabetes with a shorter life expectancy and severe complications or in persons unable to safely follow intensive therapy. Patients need to be empowered in the self-management of their diabetes care to improve diabetes control and educated on lifestyle changes.

Team support provided by a multidisciplinary team consisting of clinical specialists from various disciplines is essential in the effective management of diabetes. 

by Dr L Sauermann, MBChB, Diploma in Diabetes