In the world today, certain non-communicable diseases are responsible for an increase in the need for hospital care, disability and deaths. Popular amongst them is Diabetes Mellitus. It affects an estimated number of 1.7 million Nigerians. We may know one or two people with this health condition. We may have even seen the complications and suffering the condition puts our family and friends. It is important to know about this disease as it is chronic, disabling and costly.
- It can affect children: There are two Types based on the activities of a hormone called ‘insulin’. Insulin helps the cells of the body take in glucose from the blood. You may liken this to a tap letting water flow into a pail. In type 1, there is deficiency of Insulin. Usually, people with this type are born with the deficiency hence in childhood, they become diabetic.
- There is a genetic risk: it has been shown by genome mapping that certain genes make certain people susceptible to the disease. Also, having 1 close relative with the condition increases one’s chances of having it. This makes it a familial disease. It is important for people whose mother or father may have the condition to imbibe a healthy lifestyle including regular exercises and good nutrition, minimizing fatty foods and meals with high carbohydrate content.
- It can occur in a Pregnant woman who was not diabetic before pregnancy: This is called Gestational Diabetes Mellitus. There is an increased risk in obese women, those who smoke, hypertensive women and those with a family history of Diabetes Mellitus. It usually resolves after the pregnancy, though these women have an increased chance of having Type 2 Diabetes later in life. Women with gestational Diabetes Mellitus are well monitored during their pregnancies because of perinatal death.
- It is one of the commonest causes of limb amputation: One of the many complications of Diabetes Mellitus is foot gangrene. This is because diabetes causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the leg. This reduces blood flow especially to foot. Simply put, the foot starts to die because of lack of nutrients. In addition, diabetes Mellitus reduces a person’s immune system ability to fight infections. A combination of these two will lead to the foot becoming necrotic and infectious. If there is no intervention by amputation, it could become life-threatening.
- People with Diabetes Mellitus live normal lives under good management: Early diagnosis is always important. For those with mild symptoms, they can be managed with good nutrition and regular exercise. Those with need for medications or Insulin require compliance to medications to live free of the disabling complications of diabetes Mellitus.
Never forget, regularly check your blood glucose levels at your nearest health provider.
Cheers to good health this November.