The Sweet and Short of It

Taking Control of Diabetes

14 November is World Diabetes Day and we’re joining hands to help raise awareness of a condition that millions of people all around the world live with every day. Comprising hundreds of campaigns, activities, screenings, lectures, meetings and more, World Diabetes Day has grown from humble beginnings to become a globally-recognised event.

Essentially, diabetes is about the body’s ability (or lack of it) to produce the required amount of a hormone called insulin to control glucose levels in the blood. There are broadly three types: Type 1, Type 2 Diabetes and Gestational Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

Otherwise known as Juvenile Diabetes, Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease where T cells attack and destroy most of the beta cells in the pancreas that are needed to produce insulin. This means the pancreas makes too little insulin, or none at all.

Without insulin, the body can’t process blood glucose (sugar) for energy, and toxic acids (called ketoacids) build up in the body.

While Type 1 Diabetes usually develops in childhood or early adulthood, it may have its clinical onset at any age. The symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes develop fast, typically over the course of several weeks and include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Feeling very hungry
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts or sores that don’t heal properly

This type of Diabetes is usually managed by taking insulin injections to control blood sugar, as well as regular testing and a healthy lifestyle. However, there’s currently no cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes

Unlike Juvenile Diabetes, people with Type 2 Diabetes still produce insulin. However, their bodies are unable to use it effectively. The symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes are very similar to that of the first, however, it tends to appear more slowly.

Researchers aren’t sure why some people become insulin resistant and others don’t, but several lifestyle factors may contribute to the condition:

  • Family history
  • Ethnic background
  • Age
  • Obesity

Type 2 Diabetes is usually managed with oral medication, an active exercise programme and a healthy diet. In severe cases, patients may also be prescribed insulin. While Type 2 Diabetes cannot be cured, there is evidence that suggests it can be prevented and put into remission.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational Diabetes develops during pregnancy, causing high blood sugar levels that may affect the mother’s health. The exact reason why women get it is unknown, however, many doctors believe it has to do with the increased hormone levels. The increased hormones may start to make the body resistant to insulin, as hormones regulate blood sugar levels.

It’s rare for somebody with Gestational Diabetes to have any symptoms. In the rare case that the symptoms do appear, they are slight. However, women are at a greater risk of developing Gestational Diabetes if they:

  • Are over the age of 25
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have a family history of Diabetes
  • Were overweight before becoming pregnant
  • Gain a larger than normal amount of weight while pregnant
  • Are expecting multiple babies
  • Have previously given birth to a baby weighing more than 4kg
  • Have had Gestational Diabetes in the past 

A Sweet Deal

You don’t have to suffer with this debilitating disease alone. The Bestmed Diabetes programme, in partnership with HaloCare*, helps you understand and deal with this long-term condition by offering the support you need to improve your Diabetes management – with no additional cost to you.

Any Bestmed member diagnosed with Diabetes is automatically registered on the programme. In addition to providing cover for the tests required for the management of Diabetes, we give you access to specialised Diabetes doctors, dieticians, podiatrists and Diabetic educators. You will also have access to dedicated health educators and case-managers to answer any questions you may have.

*HaloCare is the CMS-approved (Council for Medical Schemes) managed care organisation that runs the programme.

For more information on the Diabetes Care Programme call 0860 143 258 or email bestmeddiabetes@halocare.co.za.

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