Diabetes affects everyone, young or old. In South Africa it has killed more people than HIV, hypertension and other forms of disease. It is the deadly disease that has left many families devastated.
Diabetes is the deadliest among South African women and the fifth cause of death amongst men. More than 90 000 South Africans died from diabetes in 2019 and with millions living with the disease. The number may continue to grow according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). It is vital to know the symptoms of diabetes as it empowers both individuals and families to take action before ending up in hospital. Here are a few examples of diabetes signs and symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of diabetes:
- Unusual thirst – The frequent urination that is necessary to remove excess sugar from the blood can result in the body losing additional water. Over time, this can cause dehydration and lead to a person feeling more thirsty than usual.
- Frequent urination – When blood sugar levels are high, the kidneys try to remove the excess sugar by filtering it out of the blood. This can lead to a person needing to urinate more frequently, particularly at night.
- Extreme fatigue or lack of energy – Type 2 diabetes can impact on a person’s energy levels and cause them to feel very tired or fatigued. This tiredness occurs as a result of insufficient sugar moving from the bloodstream into the body’s cells.
- Blurred vision – An excess of sugar in the blood can damage the tiny blood vessels in the eyes, which can cause blurry vision.
- Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, boils and itching skin – High levels of sugar in the blood can damage the body’s nerves and blood vessels, which can impair blood circulation. As a result, even small cuts and wounds may take weeks or months to heal. Slow wound healing also increases the risk of infection.
- Tingling and numbness in the hands or feet – High blood sugar levels can affect blood circulation and damage the body’s nerves. In people with type 2 diabetes, this can lead to pain or a sensation of tingling or numbness in the hands and feet.
Diabetes can be prevented and treated, but in order to prevent it we need to recognise the risk factors. A healthy diet plays a crucial role in diabetes management. You can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by changing your lifestyle. For example, reduce sugar and processed food intake. Exercise regularly as it helps to manage weight, reduce blood glucose levels and may also improve blood pressure. Smokers are twice as likely to develop diabetes than non-smokers, so it is important to quit smoking. For people who are struggling to quit, there are nicotine substitutes, such as vaping and tobacco pads to name a few. Drinking water instead of other beverages like soda drinks, alcohol and energy drinks that contain sugar may help control blood sugar and insulin levels and reduce the risk of diabetes. We can beat diabetes if we practice healthy habits regularly.