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One in 9 South Africans have Diabetes

November 14, 2022

One in 9 South Africans have Diabetes - featured image

Dr Mantsebo Ralise says signs of diabetes are subtle enough that you might not recognise them off the bat, but they’re worth discussing with your physician if you experience them.

A new report suggests that 1-in-9 South Africans have diabetes and that our country has the highest rate of diabetes on the continent.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is an organisation comprised of 230 national diabetes associations in 170 countries and territories.

According to its 2021 report, diabetes prevalence in South Africa has reached 11.3% of the total population. By the end of this year, the organisation estimates that over 96,000 deaths due to diabetes will occur.

Dr. Mantsebo Ralise is a Specialist Physician and Nephrologist at Busamed Modderfontein Orthopaedic and Oncology Centre. “Warning signs are something one can easily miss,” she says.

What Are The 10 Early Signs of Diabetes?
Feeling more thirsty than usual, weight loss without any changes in diet or lifestyle modification and feeling depleted of energy leading to tiredness and a decrease in strength.

Dr. Ralise says urinating often, the smell of ketones in the urine and repeat infections of the gums, skin and vaginal area might also be a sign.

“Ketones are a byproduct of the breakdown of muscle and fat that happens when there’s not enough available insulin,” says Dr.Ralise.

There are other symptoms to watch out for. These include mood changes like irritability, having blurred vision and experiencing slow-healing sores.

Treatment starts with an assessment of your symptoms and a blood test. Dr. Ralise says there are several types of diabetes. These include:
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY), and neonatal diabetes.

Type 1 and 2 are the most common.
Diabetes treatment involves the management of insulin, a hormone that regulates metabolism, blood sugar and cell growth.
Says Dr. Ralise: “When you eat, the food you digest is broken down into blood sugar. As blood sugar enters the bloodstream, the pancreas is signaled to release insulin. Insulin helps instruct the body’s cells to allow blood sugar to enter into it so it can be used for energy. Insulin also signals the liver to store blood sugar for later use. Once blood sugar enters cells, and levels in the bloodstream decrease, signaling insulin to decrease too. When there are lower insulin levels, the liver is signaled to release stored blood sugar so the body will have the energy it needs to work.”

Without insulin, none of the above processes work according to plan, leading to complications.

Treatment includes oral medication and injectable insulin where needed. Dr. Ralise says regular visits with your physician will help monitor how the treatment is working and if any changes need to be made.

Poorly treated Diabetes can lead to multiple organ involvement and can effect the heart, eyes, kidney, brain, nerves and feet.

Unfortunately, diabetes isn’t curable, but with early treatment, the disease is manageable.

Dr. Mantsebo Ralise

Dr. Mantsebo Ralise

Specialist Physician and Nephrologist