The world that we live in today has been shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic in the most interesting manner. In the time period spanning over two years, our world has become a wondrous hall of mirrors and smoke, a hall that has kept each one of us confined within the four walls of our houses. Along with the isolation and danse macabre, global politics, climate change, and dwindling economies have increased the tensions among the masses. Underlying health issues in the given circumstances have spelled adversity for a huge chunk of the population around the globe who have remained glued to television and different social media.
One such silent, but major underlying health concern is Diabetes mellitus which is commonly known as diabetes or increased blood sugar. Diabetes is a metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar and leads to damaging internal organs. In adverse cases, it may even lead to organ failure and eventually death. Diabetes can be caused due to genetic and environmental factors, it has two common types that can be detected via tests and various silent and prominent symptoms.
Diabetes is however a disease that can be easily prevented and even treated. Over the years a large number of movements and awareness campaigns have been carried out around the globe to educate the public about the disease and make a difference in their lives. World Diabetes Day remains a prominent global event in terms of spreading awareness and positively impacting the lives of diabetics.
Diabetes mellitus: causes, symptoms, types, and complications.
Causes and Symptoms.
Diabetes is a silent but chronic disease that stems due to two major reasons. The first reason is the pancreas’ decreased ability to produce enough insulin and the second reason is the body’s inability to effectively use the insulin produced by it.
This disturbance in the insulin levels leads to failure in regulating blood sugar in the body, hence marking the onset of diabetes. Some common symptoms of diabetes include extreme hunger, increased thirst, unintentional weight loss or weight gain, frequent urination, blurry vision, tiredness, sores that are slow to heal, palpitation, increased perspiration, and lethargy.
Diabetes has two common and widely diagnosed types namely type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. In addition to these two types, there is gestational diabetes that remains common in pregnant women due to hormonal changes. There are a range of other types of diabetes that impact only 2% of the general population. These include different types of “monogenic diabetes, cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, and diabetes caused by rare syndromes. Certain medications such as steroids and antipsychotics could lead to other types of diabetes, as well as surgery or hormonal imbalances”1. People suffering from the other less common types of diabetes are usually misdiagnosed and are subjected to an increased risk of prolonged suffering and complications.
Uncontrolled diabetes leads to ‘Hyperglycemia’, or raised blood sugar levels that over time lead to serious health complications, such as damage to internal organs, nervous system. ‘Hyperglycemia’ also carries the potential of foot ulcerations that eventually result in lower limb amputations. Over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.
Research shows that “Adults with diabetes have a two- to three-fold increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.” Moreover, “diabetes is the cause of 2.6% of global blindness” and remains “among the leading causes of kidney failure.” In addition to these statistics, “in 2019, an estimated 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes. Another 2.2 million deaths were attributable to high blood glucose in 2012.”2
World Diabetes Day and Other Supporting Awareness Campaigns
World Diabetes Day.
Keeping in view the aforementioned staggering statistics one naturally tends to question what solutions have been proposed by the experts on this issue? The answer lies in the various local and global awareness campaigns that are being conducted by local governments, intergovernmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations. For instance, “World Diabetes Day (WDD) was created by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1991”3.
In 2006 World Diabetes Day became an official United Nations Day. “It is marked every year on 14 November, the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, who co-discovered insulin along with Charles Best in 1922.”4WDD was created in response to the increased health threats posed by diabetes to a large global population. Currently, according to WHO, “globally, more than 420 million adults live with diabetes”5and the “…global burden is expected to rise to 578 million by 2030 and 700 million by 2045”6.
Out of the 420 million adults living with diabetes, more than half of the population lacks access to diabetes care. In this respect, WDD remains “the world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign reaching a global audience of over 1 billion people in more than 160 countries.”7The campaign is represented by a blue circle logo that signifies a global symbol for diabetes awareness and unified action to eradicate it.
Each year, the World Diabetes Day campaign focuses on a dedicated theme that runs for one or more years. The theme for World Diabetes Day 2021-23 is Access to Diabetes Care. In this respect, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) that has been leading the global diabetes community since 1950, is currently leading the three-year World Diabetes Day campaign. Its mission is “to improve access to diabetes care and highlight the need for increased action to prevent diabetes and its complications.”8
IDF will also be holding a virtual congress in December 2021 where updates on the latest research and tools to manage and prevent diabetes complications will be presented. A dedicated stream on COVID-19 and diabetes is also planned to be included.
Other Supporting Awareness Campaigns.
Currently, the British Diabetic Association (a charity) aims at celebrating diabetes week between 14 – 20 June 2021. This year, they intend on spreading awareness by telling #DiabetesStories from all corners of the UK. They further intend on spreading awareness via social media by holding live Q&A sessions, by inviting the community to participate via art, literature, and music. The youth is also being urged to participate by organizing walks or downloading creative kits for kids.
Following in the footsteps of IDF is the World Diabetes Foundation, a leading funder of diabetes prevention and care projects in underdeveloped countries that has provided “168 million euros in funding to 572 partnership projects in 119 countries.”9The foundation has also run various programs in Pakistan and is currently overseeing “integrated diabetes care at health centers in 10 Punjab districts from 2020 to 2022.”10
Moreover, Transparent Hands, an NGO providing medical services to the underprivileged Pakistani community assists diabetes patients through medical camps. The patients are tested and those suffering from foot ulcerations are provided medical and surgical treatment along with prosthesis placement in case of amputations.
Diabetes is literally a disease that silently plots against the body it resides in. In the global age, interconnectedness via technology plays an instrumental role in terms of disseminating information and spreading awareness. In an individual capacity, World Diabetes Day can be celebrated in collaboration with local NGOs that provide medical services. Collaborations with medical and non-medical student unions can also be made to arrange awareness walks, social media interactions, and live Q&A sessions.
Moreover, talking to diabetic patients in close vicinity to encourage the use of technology in monitoring and treating diabetes, wearing diabetic socks and shoes, maintaining personal hygiene, following COVID-19 SOPs, and regular visits to diabetologists are a few ways of interacting to create awareness and highlight the importance of access to diabetes care. Preventive measures such as monitoring, testing, reporting, diet control, and regular checkups can play an instrumental role in reducing the numbers.