World Diabetes Day took place on 14 November, and global healthcare company Sanofi is raising awareness about this widespread, chronic condition. Diabetes affects millions of people globally and can lead to serious complications including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and the risk of amputations.
A critical health concern in South Africa
According to the International Diabetes Federation 2021 statistics, South Africa has the second-highest number of people living with diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than 4.5 million people affected. An estimated 52.4% of people with diabetes in South Africa are undiagnosed.
Diabetes is a major public health challenge in Africa, with more than 24 million people living with the condition. Alarmingly, the prevalence of diabetes is expected to increase by 134% – that’s 55 million people – between 2019 and 2045.
“Sanofi’s dedication to diabetes education aligns perfectly with the World Diabetes Day 2023 slogan, ‘Know Your Risk, Know Your Response’,” says Dr Beki Magazi, medical head: Sanofi General Medicines South Africa.
He explains that this year, Sanofi took bold steps to uplift diabetes education among healthcare professionals in particular. “Our initiatives prioritise upskilling, educating and disseminating robust scientific data. By addressing clinicians’ unmet educational needs, we aim to enhance patient care, reduce complications and contribute to a better understanding and management of diabetes. Our continuing medical education initiatives are focused on advancing the field of diabetes and building a community of informed healthcare professionals dedicated to improving outcomes.”
Type 1 or type 2 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It usually develops in childhood or adolescence, requires lifelong insulin therapy, and has no known cure.
In contrast, type 2 diabetes is characterised by insulin resistance, where cells do not respond effectively to insulin. It’s often linked to lifestyle factors such as poor diet and obesity, and typically occurs in adulthood, though it can develop at any age. Initially managed with lifestyle changes, some people with type 2 diabetes may require medications or insulin as the condition progresses. Understanding these differences is vital for effective management and prevention strategies.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes can lead to symptoms such as:
- Urinating frequently
- Feeling very thirsty and drinking a lot
- Feeling very hungry
- Feeling very fatigued
- Having cuts or sores that don’t heal properly
- Having blurry vision
- Having more infections than usual
People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes may also experience irritability, mood changes and unintentional weight loss.
Know your risk, know your response
Beyond common diabetes symptoms, it is crucial to be aware of the serious complications associated with diabetes. If you think you may be at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, take the Type 2 Risk Test.
If you or someone you care about experiences any of these complications, such as heart disease or kidney problems, it is essential to consult with a medical professional. By conducting blood tests, healthcare providers can identify uncontrolled diabetes as an underlying cause and initiate appropriate treatment.
Take the diabetes risk test
For those with a family history of diabetes or individuals who are overweight and have chronic lifestyle-related diseases like high blood pressure, periodic diabetes risk assessment is recommended. “This can be easily done online or in person at your nearest healthcare facility,” says Dr Magazi. “The test involves a simple questionnaire covering age, weight, height, waist circumference, physical activity, family history and blood pressure. Based on your responses, the test estimates your likelihood of having or developing type 2 diabetes in the next 10 years.”
Supporting people living with diabetes
For those already living with diabetes, awareness and access to accurate information, as well as the best available medicines and self-care tools, are essential to delay or prevent complications, and to support individuals in managing their diabetes effectively.
Sanofi’s Patient Support Programme offers patients structured education on the disease, behaviour change and self-management of their condition. This is delivered by diabetic nurse educators via telecoaching over a period of 12 months.
Empowering patients and healthcare professionals
“Healthcare professionals play a critical role in diabetes management,” says Dr Magazi. “They require access to sufficient training and resources to detect complications early and provide the best possible care. One of our most recent flagship initiatives was the Professor Julio Rosenstock (Texas, USA) Roadshow, which brought global expertise to three key South African cities: Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. This event highlighted the significance of localised access to international knowledge.”
Patients with diabetes also need to play their part in managing their condition, including making healthy food choices, staying at a healthy weight, moving more every day, and taking their medicine even when they feel good. It is vital for patients to take their medications as prescribed and to continue to take prescribed medication. Not taking your medicine as prescribed by a doctor or instructed by a pharmacist could lead to your disease getting worse, being hospitalised or even dying.
Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those affected by this prevalent condition.