Family and Diabetes

On the 14th of November, we commemorate World Diabetes Day.

As the number of diabetes cases continues to rise – becoming one of the leading causes of death in the world – it is very important that we get a better understanding of and raise awareness about this health catastrophe.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has themed this year’s awareness month (November) Family and Diabetes, “raising awareness of the impact that diabetes has on the family and support network of those affected, and promoting the role of the family in the management, care, prevention and education of diabetes”.


Lack of knowledge about this condition leaves us with little ammunition to prevent, manage and care for ourselves or loved ones. When detected early, we can find ways to care for ourselves and our families as management and care does involve our immediate community. Left undetected, diabetes leads to serious complications and early death in some cases. Some of the consequences are strokes, blindness, heart attack, kidney failure and leg amputation.

Types of Diabetes

The World Health Organisation categorises diabetes as such:

  1. Type 1 (previously known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset) is characterised by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin. The cause of type 1 is not known and it is not preventable with current knowledge.
  2. Type 2 (formerly called non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset) results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. Type 2 comprises the majority of people with diabetes around the world and is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity.
  3. Gestational is hyperglycaemia with blood glucose values above normal but below those diagnostic of diabetes, occurring during pregnancy.

Type 1 diabetes is generally caused by factors we have no control over – for example, it might be diabetes – and requires medical attention and care. Type 2 can be prevented with a balanced, nutritious meal plan, weight loss and physical activity, among other self-care routines.

“Research conducted by IDF in 2018 discovered that parents would struggle to spot this serious life-long condition in their own children. Despite the majority of people surveyed having a family member with diabetes, an alarming four in five parents would have trouble recognising the warning signs. One is three wouldn’t spot them at all”. – IDF

Diabetes Facts

  1. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in the world.
  2. About 422 million people worldwide have the disease, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
  3. Over 50% of type 2 diabetes is preventable
  4. Globally, only one in four families currently have access to diabetes education programmes.
  5. 1 in 11 people are living with the disease and 1 in 2 people with diabetes do not know they have it.
  6. Type 1 symptoms include excessive excretion of urine, thirst, constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes and fatigue. These symptoms may occur suddenly.
  7. Type 2 symptoms may be similar to those of type 1 but are often less marked. As a result, the disease may only be diagnosed several years after onset, once complications have already arisen.
  8. Gestational diabetes is diagnosed through prenatal screening, rather than through reported symptoms.
  9. Both type 1 and type 2 are serious. There is no such thing as mild diabetes.
  10. A healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use are ways to prevent or delay the onset of type 2.
  11. The disease can be treated and its consequences avoided or delayed with diet, physical activity, medication and regular screening and treatment for complications.

Families have a responsibility to assist a member diagnosed with diabetes, as this may motivate the whole family – be it to support with medical care and fees, household groceries and meal preparations as well as the emotional state of everyone involved. The most important way to reduce the scourge of this health catastrophe is early detention, knowledge and understanding of how to manage and care for ourselves and families.   

For more information, check out resources on International Diabetes Federation and World Health Organization.

Also read: There’s no Sugar-coating Diabetes in SA

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