Understanding the dangers of diabetes

Alixandra Caole Vila (The Philippine Star) - October 7, 2014 - 4:36pm

MANILA, Philippines – Diabetes is a growing global health crisis that has reached epidemic proportions. Today, there are 382 million people living with diabetes or 8.3 percent of the world’s total adult population.

In fact, the Philippines is among the top 15 countries with the highest prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the world.  Cynthia Rosanna Manabat, former president of the Philippine Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism (PSEM), and one of the resource speakers during a media briefing on diabesity held by AstraZeneca Philippines at the Dusit Thani Manila Hotel in Makati, said more than  4 million Filipinos are diagnosed diabetics, and many more are unaware they have the disease.

Defining Diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic, progressive disease that occurs when the body either has insufficient insulin production or is unable to respond to its effects. This can lead to a build-up of glucose (sugar) in the blood or hyperglycemia.

Elevated blood sugar levels can cause serious damage to the body and lead to potentially life-threatening health problems over time.

There are three main types of diabetes:

  1. Type 1 diabetes is characterized by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin for survival. This type of diabetes is common among young children.
  2. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insufficient insulin production and/or an inability to respond to its effects  (insulin resistance).
  3. Gestational diabetes is characterized by high blood glucose during pregnancy, currently believed to be due to the action of insulin being blocked by hormones.

Type 2 diabetes is the most commonly diagnosed form of diabetes, accounting for an estimated 85-95 percent of cases in all developed countries. People with type 2 diabetes can remain undiagnosed for many years, unaware of the long-term consequences. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to serious complications and early death.

Risk Factors
The cause of type 1 diabetes is not known, and the disease usually occurs in children and young adults. Type 2 diabetes is most often associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, unhealthy diet, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity and certain ethnicities.

Diabetes is associated with numerous co-morbidities, or other life-threatening health problems that can occur as a result of the disease. The most common complications associated with diabetes include:

  1. Cardiovascular disease – angina, heart attack, stroke, peripheral artery disease and congestive heart failure
  2. Kidney disease – nephropathy, a leading cause of kidney failure
  3. Eye disease – retinopathy, which can lead to blindness
  4. Nerve damage – neuropathy, which can cause problems with digestion and other functions
  5. Diabetic foot – damage to nerves and blood vessels, which can lead to infection and amputation
  6. Pregnancy complications – fetal abnormalities leading to problems with delivery
  7. Sleep apnea – disruption in breathing during sleep
  8. Oral health complications – increased risk of inflammation of the gums or gingivitis, which can lead to tooth loss

Some diabetic complications can be delayed or prevented through ongoing maintenance and monitoring of blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Meanwhile, in 2013, diabetes was estimated to affect 5-6 percent of adult population ages 20 and above, with approximately 3.3 million Filipinos diagnosed with the disease. Because of this, demand is rising for treatments that better meet the individual needs of these patients.

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