A doctor administering insulin into a diabetes patient.
Diabetes is one of the silent killer diseases attacking people in large numbers across the country. Experts recently converged on Lagos to find ways through which the pandemic could be brought under control, Steve Dada writes.
Mr. Adewale Iyiola, a middle-aged subsistence farmer sustained a small injury on his leg and as usual, he applied dry sand with the hope that the sore would heal naturally.
He has done that several times in the past and it worked but this time, he got it wrong, the small wound started expanding. And with the suspicion that it might be spiritual attack, he started visiting different herbal homes. After several disappointments with the herbal homes, he considered visiting a hospital where he was confirmed to be suffering from diabetes. At the hospital he was greeted with the bad news that he would have his left leg cut off because his leg had become seriously damaged by diabetes. He was amputated.
Several people who walk the streets are in the same condition as Iyiola without the idea of how deadly diabetes can be. No fewer than 500million people are said to be suffering from diabetes without knowing it.
An Associate Professor and Consultant Physician/Endocrinologist, College of Medicine, University of Lagos (LUTH), Dr. Femi Fasanmade, while speaking at a seminar organised by Beyhealth Masterclass in Lagos recently defined diabetes as a chronic condition in which the blood sugar is persistently elevated, due to the problem with the production of insulin or problem with the utilisation of insulin.
He described diabetes mellitus (DM) as a life-threatening disease that attacks when a small organ in the body (pancreas) fails to produce enough of insulin to enable the body utilise the food intake. According to him, insulin enables cells of the body to take in sugar from the blood and use it to produce energy.
‘’Failure of insulin production, or its effective functioning leads to raised sugar levels in the blood, which doctors call hyperglycaemia or diabetes mellitus,” he said.
He added that even though the condition is not curable, if treated well, the patient can live long and be useful to the society. He thus urged people to refrain from refined sugar, fast food products in order to eliminate risks of the disease.
Fasanmade explained that neglected or poorly treated diabetes results in very serious damage to the body organs especially the nerves, kidneys, eyes, the heart and feet, noting that the condition does not only results in severe disabilities but also leads to premature but preventable deaths. “ The burden of diabetes is particularly heavy in low resource economies,” he confirmed.
He advised Nigerians to check their blood sugar levels often since early diagnosis could lead to better management of the disease considering the fact that no cure has been found for the ailment. He described diabetes as one of the three leading causes of blindness, stroke, loss of potency and miscarriage in the country.
Fasanmade said: “New developments in the management of the condition encourage blood test to be done at random, which is a sharp contrast to what it used to be when patients were asked to undergo overnight fasting.”
He noted that DM has devastating effects on the basement membrane of any organ in the body and further explained that it is usually characterised by the passage of frequent large volume of sweet urine, increase thirst, weight loss and devastating complications, saying it is a global problem with increasing record of incidence and prevalence in proportion to obesity, aging and some other environmental factors.
According to him, family history has been a major issue of note, “if either the father or the mother had diabetes then the disease may run in the family,” he said.
He also talked about smoking, obesity, excessive alcoholism and lack of physical exercise.
Hypertension, according to the lecturer has also been found to be a disposing factor for diabetes. “Most people who are hypertensive have been found to suffer diabetes. For such people high blood pressure should be kept under control regularly,” he said.
He confirmed further that a very few number of the affected members of the public with the disease know that they have it, while treatment was available only to half of the number that suffers from diabetes.
Also, Dr. Anthonia Ogbera of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) had described a foot ulcer as an open sore or wound that appears on the feet of patients with diabetes in a significant percentage, while stressing that up to 70 per cent of all leg amputations happen to people with the condition.
A recent international study led by Dr. Anatas Pittas has disclosed that all hope is not lost in the effort to improve the treatment of diabetes as he and other experts have found that Vitamin D supplements may reduce risk factors of the disease by improving the function of insulin producing cells in the body.
A lecturer at Tufts University Medical Centre, Boston, United States Pittas said the result of his findings with others suggests that vitamin D supplementations may help to improve the main defect in type-2 diabetes
According to him, the diabetes is characterised by high blood-sugar resulting from the body’s poor response to insulin made by beta cells in the pancreas, a chemical that removes sugar from the body system and stores it in the liver and muscles.
To see whether taking vitamin D would improve people’s ability to handle blood sugar, the researchers gave 92 pre-diabetic adults either vitamin D3 supplements, calcium supplements, both or placebos. After four months, the participants’ bloods were tested for several known diabetes risk factors.
The researchers found that vitamin D significantly increased the beta-cell function of the pre-diabetic adults, while the vitamin D group also had slightly more favourable haemoglobin A/C levels. The result according to the researchers does not necessarily indicate that vitamin D will reduce the likelihood of diabetes, since the study just measures blood test results. However, the important finding is that ‘’supplementation affects biology.