Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how a body converts food into energy. Globally, there were an estimated 422 million diabetic patients in 2014. This figure escalated to 537 million in 2021. According to IDF Diabetes Atlas 2021, the number of people affected by diabetes is likely to increase to 643 million by 2030.
These statistics are only the tip of the iceberg. Today, there are more than 37 million people affected by diabetes in the United States only. The unprecedented increase in the number of diabetic patients calls for action and this is why World Diabetes Day is celebrated on 14 November every year to mark the day of spreading awareness and education about this disease.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not effectively produce the insulin required for breaking down sugar for energy. This failure to break down sugar leads to Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, which is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and may lead to serious damage to the body’s nervous and blood circulatory system.
Some key facts about diabetes are:
- In 2014, about 8.5% of adults aged 18 years or older were affected by diabetes
- In 2019, diabetes was the leading cause of 1.5 million deaths and about 48% of the deaths were a result of diabetes before the age of 70
- In lower-income countries, the mortality rates due to diabetes showed an increase of 13% between 2000 and 2019
- Diabetes is a major cause of kidney failure, blindness, heart attack, and lower limb amputation
All these statistics point out the need for diabetes control and treatment. Such treatment and control are possible only through spreading awareness about diabetes and how it can be treated. Only then its consequences can be avoided or delayed with the help of medication and regular screening.
A Spotlight on Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-independent or childhood-onset diabetes occurs due to deficient insulin production and therefore, requires daily administration of insulin. The symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include excessive excretion of urine, constant hunger, loss of weight, fatigue, and changes in vision.
The prevalence of Type 1 diabetes has remained high, especially in high-income countries. This can be gleaned from the fact that in 2017, there were an estimated 9 million people with Type 1 diabetes, with a majority of them living in high-income countries.
Type 2 Diabetes
Also known as non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset diabetes, Type 2 diabetes results due to the body’s ineffective use of insulin and is mainly caused by excess body weight and physical inactivity. Type 2 diabetes may be diagnosed years after its onset and is mostly detected after the complications have already occurred.
14 November is marked World Diabetes Day as a result of a resolution (61/225) adopted by the General Assembly in 2007. The resolution recognized the “urgent need to pursue multilateral efforts to promote and improve human health, as well as provide access to treatment and health education”.
The resolution adopted by the General Assembly also encouraged Member States to develop national policies to treat, prevent and care for diabetes in line with the sustainable development of healthcare systems.
The theme for World Diabetes Day has been set as access to diabetes care for the years 2021-2023. The need for this diabetes day is due to the worrisome statistics accompanying diabetes. Even after 100 years of the discovery of insulin, a vast majority of people with diabetes around the world cannot access the care they need for the control and treatment of diabetes. People diagnosed with diabetes require ongoing care and support in order to manage their health condition as well as to avoid complications related to diabetes.
Marking the 100 years since the discovery of insulin, the opportunity to bring a meaningful change arises. This opportunity is for the 537 million people affected by diabetes and millions of other people affected by the disease. Here, the challenge to be vigilant arises regarding imparting knowledge about healthcare related to diabetes and the need to raise awareness regarding diabetes control and prevention.
Management and Control of Diabetes
The main goal and theme of World Diabetes Day are to raise awareness regarding diabetes care among the masses. Accordingly, the goal of diabetes management is to improve the quality of life as well as the productivity of people living with diabetes.
It is important to note that diabetes education is imperative in managing diabetes control. Essentially, there are two modes of diabetes management:
- Non-drug method: entailing the use of proper diet and physical activity
- Use of drugs: the use of diabetes tablets for lowering blood sugar levels and insulin
Other than giving details about the management of diabetes, World Diabetes Day is organized to impart knowledge and education about diabetes. The education about diabetes includes raising awareness among community members and people living with diabetes who need to know that:
- Diabetes is a serious lifelong disease that has no cure and can only be controlled
- Pillars of diabetes management include education about diabetes; knowledge regarding what foods to eat, how much, and how often to eat.
- Exercise is important but there are precautions one must take when opting for exercise
- How and when to take diabetes medicine
- The community should be aware of and encouraged to seek regular medical checkups that are critical for the early detection of diabetes
- Knowing how to identify and recognize diabetes-related emergencies such as the ones arising from low or high blood sugar levels as well as when it is appropriate to seek medical help
- The need to raise awareness about gestational diabetes and how pregnant mothers should be encouraged to check and monitor their blood sugar levels regularly.
- The need to understand that the complications resulting from diabetes are preventable
- Understanding that blood sugar control is essential to prevent long-term complications related to diabetes
- Raising awareness that people affected by diabetes have to look after their feet in order to prevent injuries and preventing ulcers and amputations in the process
One other goal of World Diabetes Day is to raise awareness about the health impact of diabetes. This includes information about diabetes which are:
- Diabetes can damage the heart, eyes, blood vessels, and nerves
- Adults that have diabetes have a three-fold increased risk of heart attacks as well as strokes
- Neuropathy or nerve damage in the feet, combined with a reduction in blood flow can increase the chance of infection, and foot ulcers, ultimately leading to limb amputation altogether
- An important cause of blindness is due to long-term accumulated damage to small blood vessels that supply energy to the retina. It is estimated that nearly 1 million people are blind owing to diabetes
- A leading cause of kidney failure is diabetes
- People affected by diabetes are likely to experience poor outcomes owing to infectious diseases such as COVID-19
The prevention of diabetes includes the following points:
- Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight
- Being physically active and opting for at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate activity on most days
- Greater physical activity is required for weight control
- Eating a healthy diet and avoiding sugar as well as saturated fats
- Avoiding the use of tobacco as smoking increases the risk of diabetes as well as cardiovascular diseases.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people globally. In order to prevent and control diabetes, it is imperative that actions and measures are taken to raise awareness about diabetes control and management. World Diabetes Day is celebrated on 14 November to mark the day of raising awareness and knowledge about diabetes and taking due action to prevent and control this disease globally.