On 14 November 2019 it is World Diabetes Day and marks the second year of a two-year theme focusing on “The Family and Diabetes”. This year the slogan for the campaign is “Diabetes: Protect your Family”.

Diabetes: Facts and Figures

  • 425 million adults (1 in 11) have diabetes.
  • The number of people with diabetes is expected to rise to 522 million by 2030.
  • 1 in 2 people with diabetes remain undiagnosed (212 million).
  • 3 out of 4 people with diabetes live in low and middle-income countries.
  • Over 1 million children and adolescents have type 1 diabetes.
  • 1 in 6 births is affected by high blood glucose (hyperglycaemia) in pregnancy.
  • Two-thirds of people with diabetes are of working age (327 million).
  • Diabetes caused 4 million deaths in 2017.
  • Diabetes was responsible for at least $727 billion in health expenditure in 2017 – that’s greater than the defense budgets of the US and China combined!

Recent research completed by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) showed that many parents struggle to spot the warning signs and symptoms of diabetes in their own children. An alarming 80% of parents would not recognise the warning signs and one third wouldn’t spot them at all, although the majority of participants surveyed had family members with diabetes.

What is Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes mellitus is a serious condition where your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, level is too high. Blood glucose is our body and brain’s main energy source and comes from the food we eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the beta cells in the pancreas, helps glucose enter the cells to be used for energy. But sometimes our bodies don’t make enough – or any – insulin or don’t use the insulin well and then the glucose stays in the blood and cannot reach the cells.

Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of diabetes include the following:

  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent or recurring infections
  • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, boils and itching skin
  • Tingling and numbness in the hands or feet.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes can present rapidly, in a matter of weeks. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes often develop slowly—over the course of several years—and can be so mild that you might not even notice them. Many people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms. Some people do not find out they have the disease until they have diabetes-related health problems, such as blurred vision or heart problems.

What causes Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus?
Type 1 diabetes occurs when your immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. Scientists suspect that type 1 diabetes is caused by genetic and environmental factors, such as viruses, that might trigger the disease.

What causes Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus?
Type 2 diabetes—the most common form of diabetes—is caused by several factors, including lifestyle factors and genes.

Overweight, obesity, and physical inactivity

  • You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are not physically active and overweight. Extra weight often causes insulin resistance and is common in people with type 2 diabetes. The location of body fat also makes a difference. Extra abdominal / belly fat is linked to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and heart and blood vessel disease.

Insulin resistance

  • Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which muscle, liver and fat cells do not use insulin well. As a result, your body needs more insulin to help glucose enter cells and be used as fuel. At first, the pancreas makes more insulin to keep up with the added demand. Over time, the pancreas can’t make enough insulin, and blood glucose levels rise.

Who is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes?

You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are age 45 or older, have a family history of diabetes, or are overweight. Physical inactivity, certain ethnic groups and health problems such as high blood pressure also affect your chance of developing type 2 diabetes. You are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you have pre-diabetes or had gestational diabetes when you were pregnant.

Other complications
Over time, high blood glucose and uncontrolled diabetes leads to health problems such as:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • kidney disease
  • eye problems
  • dental disease
  • nerve damage
  • foot problems
  • amputations

The key is early detection and therefore regular check-ups and screenings are vital.

The IDF has formulated a quick online risk assessment to learn about your risk of type 2 diabetes, complete it at this link and encourage your family members and colleagues to do the same: https://www.idf.org/type-2-diabetes-risk-assessment/

For more information, please visit www.worlddiabetesday.org