In medical world, diabetes is dubbed the “silent killer” because it causes a slew of additional problems in patients. As a result, medical experts often preach the gospel that it’s critical to keep diabetes under control in order to avoid the complications that come with it. Reason: If diabetes is discovered early, it can be effectively treated. Unfortunately, diabetes is often taken for granted by many individuals because it doesn’t manifest easily as a health challenge, most times until when it is almost too late.
It is as a result of this that Mega Lifesciences, a leading pharmaceutical company embarked on a sensitisation of residents of Lagos State to the dangers of the ailment that could be life-threatening, most times. The pharmaceutical giant used the sensitisation programme to commemorate the World Diabetes Day, being its 9th edition of the diabetes education and awareness campaign.
During the event, medical experts called on Nigerians to take advantage of this year’s sensitisation to the dangers of diabetes, its prevention and care tips to take care of their health. This, they said, would engender better management of the ailment.
The World Diabetes Day is celebrated every November 14 as a global awareness campaign to draw attention to diabetes, a non-communicable but long-lasting disease condition known to be one of the major health and development challenges of modern times. It is largely preventable and it affects individuals of all ages. The theme of this year’s celebration, “Education to Protect Tomorrow,” under the combined theme of the World Diabetes Day 2021-23 campaign “Access to Diabetes Care,” was aimed at raising awareness around the fact that millions of people living with diabetes around the world do not have access to diabetes care.
Diabetes patients require constant care and support – experts
Experts say that diabetic patients require constant care and support to manage their condition and avoid complications. Nine in 10 of diabetics have the Type 2 variant, a lifestyle disease linked to obesity and unhealthy living. The Type 1 variant is an unpreventable autoimmune disease that develops in childhood.
The Head of Business of Mega Lifesciences, Amit Raghunvanshy, said Mega Lifesciences’s initiative tagged, “Good health by yourself,” is a platform where Nigerians can check their health on the pharmaceutical company’s website. “As the word is explanatory, you can see good health; you are taking care of your own health, and you are responsible for your health. I have realised that if you keep on talking to someone to live a healthy lifestyle, they will not change unless they decide on their own and shun a crummy lifestyle, especially as it pertains to diet; then only will it happen.
“So, you have to take your health into your own hands. That is very important. Based on that, we have created a website (www.ng. megawecare.com) where one can check one’s levels of health. “On that website, one can register oneself for free and one can get health-related newsletters. You can see there are free tools, which are international tools. You can check your basal metabolic rate that is BMR. You can check your BMI, you can check your heart rate and you can check other conditions also even prostate. Not only on diabetes but also about other health conditions such as prostate enlargement; this is also a top issue in Nigeria,” he said.
He also hinted that the company is dedicated to assisting Nigerian doctors in research. Explaining what diabetes is as well as the symptoms and prevention, Dr Akinyele Akinlade, Senior Consultant Physician/Endocrinologist at the General Hospital, Odan, Lagos, said Nigerians should stop being too spiritual and face reality when they are being diagnosed with diabetes. According to him, too much intake of Coca-Cola or sugar is not necessarily what causes diabetes, but the inability of insulin to move glucose into the cells so that the cells can use the glucose to generate energy.
“We need to get what diabetes is because when you tell someone that he has diabetes, the first thing he says is ‘I don’t drink coke, I don’t take sugar.’ We get diabetes not because we drink coke, not because we take too much sugar, not because we eat eba or amala. When we say someone has diabetes, what we actually mean is that the person’s body is not able to deal with the sugar that the body generates from the food that person has eaten.
“No matter what meal you take, it eventually gets broken down to become sugar, fat and protein. And the essence of all these molecules is to help the body to generate energy and there is one chemical that our body produces which is called insulin. The role of insulin is to move this glucose into the cells so that the cells can use the glucose to generate energy. And it is when the body is able to generate the energy that we’re able to do all the things we are able to do,” he said.
The two main types of diabetes, according to Akinlade, are Type one and Type two. In Type one, which is common in children, the body doesn’t produce insulin at all while in Type two, the body produces insulin, but the quantity it produces is inadequate. “So the sugar still builds up in the blood.”
He added that sometimes when women get pregnant, their blood sugar levels start to rise as a result of the pregnancy. “For expectant women, they are diagnosed to have what we call gestational diabetes. Once they are delivered of their babies, their blood sugar goes back to normal. But what we must note is that any woman who has had gestational diabetes or diabetes during pregnancy, later in life, that person is most likely to also develop diabetes.
“So, there are other forms of diabetes, which can happen if you have a problem with the pancreas, liver, misuse of drugs like steroids; some anti-hypertensive drugs can also lead the blood sugar to go up and so forth, but they are not as common as type one. Type Two is the most common. Worldwide, the number of diabetes is more than 500 million as of the last count in 2021. In Nigeria, we have more of young people who have diabetes. But we know from our practice, that this number is not correct. We probably have more than that number,” he said.
While encouraging people to always check their blood sugar level, Akinlade added that 50 per cent of people who have diabetes don’t even know that they have it. “The intriguing thing about diabetes is that 50 per cent of people who have it don’t know that they have it. And that’s why we encourage that when patients come to the hospital, no matter what they want to complain about when their test is being carried out, a blood sugar check should be part of it. Because we’ve been able to diagnose so many people who didn’t even come with complaints of diabetes,” he said.
While highlighting the symptoms of diabetes, Akinlade said those who are fortunate may start noticing that they are passing a lot of urine. “They wake up in the night to pass urine more than four or five times. They notice that they pass a large volume of urine or sometimes some people just notice that when they pass urine and it drops on the floor, ants gather around the urine.
“The only thing some people may notice is that they drink plenty of water while they are losing weight. Or they notice that their vision is getting blurred. Some people may notice that they have a toothache, recurrent boils or frequent vagina discharge. When you notice any of these symptoms, surely if you have a family issue, you should be checking for diabetes.
“The sad part is that many people ignore the symptoms until they develop complications. You know when you develop complications of diabetes; most times it is not reversible. Many times for many people, the first time they get to know that they have diabetes is when they have a foot that is not healing and they need to go to the hospital. That’s number one. Number two is you also notice that we’re all growing bigger or fatter, simply because we’re not exercising as we used to,” he said.
For those who didn’t develop diabetes during their active life, Akinlade said the risk of developing diabetes is high as they grow older as a result of inactivity. “If you have a family history, chances of developing diabetes are also higher. So, for those of us who have parents, or a parent who already has diabetes, or a brother or a sister who has diabetes, we also have a risk of developing it and when we notice, when you see your mother or your father, being very careful with certain food, running away from drinking coke, fanta, malt and all that, you also need to follow them because that is a healthy lifestyle. Diabetes is now preventable. We have to ensure that we watch our weight and exercise very often. Also, regular blood sugar checks are very crucial.”
On the complications that may arise when we have diabetes or we don’t manage it well, Akinlade said: “Diabetes affects every part of our body. It can cause a stroke. It can cause blindness. It can cause a heart attack. It can cause amputation. But we can avoid this stage if we manage our diabetes well. It can also lead to infertility, not only in women but also in men. So, if we manage it well, we can prevent all these complications.”
A Senior Lecturer at the College of Medicine, the University of Lagos/Honorary Consultant Paediatrician to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Dr Elizabeth Eberechi Oyenusi, said people who have been diagnosed with diabetes need the information and education to know what to do, adding that the management of diabetes depends on the patient.
“The first access to education is for the person who is predisposed to diabetes. So, the person diagnosed with diabetes needs the information and education to know what to do. Diabetes is one of those conditions that their day-to-day management depends on the patient.”
She recounted how a diabetic patient suffered the amputation of the leg because she didn’t get appropriate education on the complication of diabetes. “I’ve seen a diabetic patient whose son was getting married. She had to wear an ill-fitting shoe, and by the time she came back from the ceremony, she had a wound on the leg and she didn’t take it seriously. And by the time she came to the hospital, the wound has spread so much that they needed to be cut off. Instead of just cutting it when it was just the toe she waited until it got above the knee that the amputation had to happen. This didn’t need to happen if she had enough education about not wearing ill-fitting shoes, for example,” she said.
The Product Manager of Diabetes Care, Mega Lifesciences, Adedayo Aremu, said the pharmaceutical company has reached over 200,000 people in its quest to educate them on diabetes prevention and care. “Mega Lifescience is a company that is dedicated to wellness and Nigerians are very interested in it. That is why we are committed to various wellness education projects. One of them is the patient education process. In the last five years, for example, we’ve been able to reach out to no fewer than 200,000 in our quest to educate them on diabetes,” she said.
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