Diabetes Mellitus : Changing the present for a bright future
At first Ikenna thought he had begun to see double.
He was sitting in his shop thumbing through a wad of money and it seemed like he could not make out the Naira sign.
He had been feeling like this recently, and he had chosen to ignore it. The last time, he was at Mama Queen’s bar with his friends and he was joking about how ‘African man no dey sick’ when one of them asked him why he was squinting his eyes.
A week later he would be unable to come to the shop and would be sitting with his wife at a clinic, listening to the doctor tell him that he has diabetes and that his eyesight was failing because of it.
Today Ikenna is blind in one eye and almost blind in the second. With the help of his wife he gets injected with insulin every day, among his other medicines.
Ikenna is just one of many people in Nigeria, and the world at large who have been living with diabetes mellitus but do not know till they develop serious complications.
There are three different kinds of diabetes but Type 2 Diabetes which affects people ranging from 20 to 79 years, occurs in 90% of people in the world.
It presents with no symptoms in the early stages and is usually only detected when complications have arisen. It occurs because the body is either no longer sensitive to insulin- which is a hormone that helps our body to carry the glucose in our food into the tissues that need it, or because the body is not producing enough insulin.
There are many reasons for this and the most obvious are, being overweight and eating unhealthy.
The International Diabetes Federation estimates that in 2013, 381.8 million people in the world had Diabetes with 19.8 million of those people living in Africa.
It is expected that these numbers will increase to 591.9 million people and 41.4 million people respectively, by 2035. The WHO projects that by 2030, diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death in the world.
But there is no need for worry. Diabetes can be prevented and with concerted effort we can reduce these projected numbers. Prevention, it is said, is better than cure.
With respect to diabetes prevention, a balanced, healthy diet is important; a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lots of water reduces the risk of diabetes.
Exercise too is a key prevention strategy; 30 minutes a day of walking, every day of the week yields good results. Cutting out on alcohol, smoking and going for regular medical check-ups is a necessity.
Early diagnosis is key in delaying the progression to even more advanced disease.
If Ikenna had known he had diabetes early enough, if he had been well informed about the disease, he probably would not be sitting at home now waiting for his food and medicines, while he ponders over what it would feel like to have perfect vision again.