Over 24 million people live with diabetes in sub-Sahara Africa

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Over 24 million people live with diabetes in sub-Sahara Africa. Over 24 million people are living with diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa, Dr Gloria Ani-Asamoah, a Family Physician, Korle-Bu Polyclinic, and Merck Foundation alumni, has disclosed.

Dr Ani-Asamoah, speaking at a day’s training workshop for journalists, said out of the 24 million, type 2 diabetes (caused by insufficient production of insulin or the inability of the body to use insulin effectively) accounts for 90 percent of the cases in the region.

The workshop was organised by the Merck Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, in collaboration with the Ghana Journalists Association and in partnership with First Lady Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, who is an ambassador for the “Merck Foundation Than a Mother Campaign.”

She said that even though the disease was causing a lot of health challenges, most people living with it were not aware of their conditions.

According to the fact sheet on diabetes from the Integrated African Health Observatory and the World Health Organisation (WHO-African Region), Africa tops the world with more than 54 percent of people living with diabetes in the region undiagnosed, predicting that those with the disease would increase by 129 percent to 55 million by the year 2045.

Dr Ani-Asamoah said the disease and other non-communicable diseases were gradually taking over the disease burden in Africa, and therefore there was a need to pay attention to it, intensify education on it, and test for early detection and intervention before complications set in.

She said diabetes was a chronic metabolism disease that was characterised by elevated blood glucose, which the human body does not like, indicating that “even though we think we are enjoying things that lead to high blood sugars, our bodies do not like them.”

She indicated that it affects blood vessels in the body, explaining that every part of the body has blood vessels that serve as pipes of the body; therefore, whichever blood vessel is attacked would lead to health issues in that part of the body.

“So, if the blood vessels of your heart are affected, then you can develop complications in your heart; if it affects the blood vessels of the eye, then you can have disturbances in the eyes; people can end up even losing their vision. It also affects the kidney; it can also affect the nerves because we have blood vessels there too,” she emphasised.

Dr Ani-Asamoah stated that focus was being put on type 2 diabetes due to its prevalence in the region and the damage it could cause to the body, adding that some of its signs and symptoms include frequent urination as the body tries to get rid of the unwanted high blood glucose from the blood vessels.

She explained that as they urinate a lot, they become dehydrated, making them thirsty all the time and consuming large volumes of water, adding that “as you seem to pass out the sugar, it is energy, and because of that, even though they consume lots of carbohydrate food, they keep losing weight as the food turns into sugars, which need to be consistently flashed out of the system through urine.”

She further said people with diabetes also get tired because their bodies are not making use of their food, adding that they also have blurred vision as it affects the lens of the eyes and a tingling sensation in their feet, with some (ananse) feeling like they were walking on a cushion as the nerves in their legs have been affected.

“And so, people will say that when there is a cut, I do not feel it. People will come to the hospital, and you will see them with huge sores on the legs, and they cannot tell when it started.”

The family physician noted that some women also get gestational diabetes during pregnancy, indicating that while some have their blood sugars normalised after birth, most women who develop gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life, therefore the need to be cautious when pregnant.

She urged the public to test for diagnoses and check their lifestyle to help reduce the high incidence of the disease, stating that people must check their weight, eat healthy with less carbohydrate and more fruits and vegetables, exercise, quit smoking, minimise alcohol intake, and exercise more.

Source: GNA

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