Amanda Ngudle and Zenoyise Madikwa
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) reports that diabetes affects the lives of a staggering 246 million people worldwide.
"Diabetes is fast becoming the epidemic of the 21st century," said IDF President Pierre Lefebvre. It accounts for 3,8 million deaths a year.
Diabetes can lead to severe complications including heart problems, kidney trouble, blindness and even amputation. Diabetes occurs when the body cannot make or use insulin correctly. Insulin is a hormone that turns the sugar in the food we eat into energy. When a person has diabetes, too much sugar stays in the blood.
There are different types of diabetes:
Type 1: The body stops producing insulin or produces too little insulin to regulate blood glucose levels.
Type 1 diabetes is typically recognised in childhood or adolescence.
"It can occur in an older person when the pancreas is damaged by abusing alcohol, disease, or removal during surgery or the progressive failure of pancreatic beta cells which produce insulin," said Dr Chuma Mdleleni, a general practitioner.
People with Type 1 diabetes generally require insulin daily to sustain life.
Type 2: The body cannot use the insulin that it makes, or the insulin that it makes does not function correctly.
Managing type 2 diabetes means making lifestyle changes. You must change your diet and general day-to-day activities.
The doctor will suggest you eat healthily, be more active, lose weight if you need to, and quit smoking. The doctor may also prescribe one or more medicines.
"It may seem a lot but keeping blood sugar under control now can help reduce the risk of health problems later," says Mdleleni.
Type 2 diabetes is typically recognised in adulthood, usually after the age of 45.
Some symptoms of diabetes include:
l Frequent urination
l Excessive thirst
l Extreme hunger
l Unusual weight loss
l Increased fatigue
l Blurred vision
If you have one or more of these symptoms see your doctor.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include:
l Feeling thirsty.
l Having to urinate more than usual.
l Feeling hungrier than usual.
l Losing weight without trying.
l Feeling very tired.
l Feeling cranky.
Other signs of type 2 diabetes may include:
l Infections, cuts and bruises that heal slowly.
l Blurred vision.
l Tingling or numbness in hands or feet.
l Lots of skin, gum, or bladder infections.
l Vaginal yeast infections.
Who is at risk?
You are at greater risk if you:
l Are over 45 years old.
l Are overweight.
l Have a family history of diabetes.
l Have high cholesterol.
l Have had diabetes during pregnancy.
l Exercise less than three times a week.
You cannot change some things but you can change others.
You cannot change your age, but you can exercise and eat healthily. These changes will help reduce your risk of developing diabetes.