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World Diabetes Day was celebrated on the 14th of November under the theme; “Access to Diabetes Care”. I found it pertinent to commemorate this day by reminding the readers about this condition and when to suspect it.

Diabetes is still one of the leading causes of death in Botswana. The prevalence of Diabetes in Botswana in the population Aged 20-79 data was reported at 5.2 % in 2021. This is a significant decrease from the previous number of 10.8 % for 2011.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how the body utilises glucose (sugar). There are traditionally 2 types of diabetes; type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is due to an insulin deficiency. Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas and its duty is to allow entry of glucose in the cells from the blood stream. When there is an insulin deficiency the body cells cannot allow glucose into them hence leading to high blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes is more common in children, teenagers and young adults.

Type 2 diabetes on the other hand is more common in older patients. It is due to insulin resistance rather than deficiency. The insulin levels are normal in this patients, but it’s a matter of the insulin not working as it should resulting in high glucose levels. There are certain factors that increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. These include; being overweight, lack of physical activity, a family history of diabetes, increasing age and certain medical conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome.

The signs and symptoms of diabetes can develop very slowly over time. Often diabetes can be asymptomatic and one would leave with the condition for many years without knowing. When present the symptoms include increased thirst. Often this patient drink lots of water without relief of the thirst. In addition they also pass lots of urine. They may be weight loss, increased hunger, tiredness, blurred visions and frequent infections.

The diagnosis of diabetes is made by screening for the above symptoms are checking the blood sugar. If the blood sugar is more than 7.0 when the patient has not had food or more than 11.1 after food together with the above mentioned symptoms the diagnosis of diabetes is established. There is a laboratory blood test that can be performed known as the HbA1c which looks at the blood glucose control over the past 3 months. If this value is more than 6.5% then a diagnosis of diabetes is made.

It is important to be on the lookout for these particular symptoms and to do regular health screening so as to diagnose diabetes early. The subsequent columns will cover the complications as well as treatment of diabetes.


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